Parking meter wheeze makes £300k a year

Parking meter on white

Cornish councils are claiming that installing parking meters that don't give change wasn't a money-making scheme. Apparently it was all to save them the headache of stocking them with change. However, quite by chance, it says that by not giving change, the meters have made an extra £300,000 this year.

And they are not the only ones to be accidentally raking the cash in from parking schemes.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%

No change

The BBC reported the figures, which it received in response to a Freedom of Information request. It said that last year in total the council made £11.6 million in parking fees - and that £307,293 of that was due to people paying too much for their parking.

The council defended the move, saying: "If these machines gave change there would have to be a mechanism to ensure they were continually stocked with sufficient change and to address the situation if they were not. The logistical problems of doing this would be great and would result in a high cost. The 'base level' of change would also be left in the machines at all times making them much more prone to vandalism and theft."

However, there will be those who find it hard to see why the machines couldn't take cards, or offer change when it was available and display a 'no change available' sign when it ran out. There will be those who cannot see why it would constitute a great deal of extra work to refill the machines with change when they are being emptied. But then again maybe the cynics are just applying a different set of priorities when looking for solutions.


Cornwall isn't the only area where parking generates huge profits. Last year the RAC Foundation said it was only the eighth most profitable area. It discovered that Westminster made the most - at £41.6 million profit in a year - while in total councils made £565 million from on- and off-street parking over the 12 months. This figure is set to rise, so that in the current financial year they will make around £635 million.

And the way in which they make the money hasn't always seemed entirely fair. In Sheffield, for example, the council was in no hurry to update parking meters to accept new 5p and 10p coins. The change was announced in 2010, and the council announced that it expected to upgrade its meters by this month. In the interim it continued charging people amounts which required the coins, so drivers all had to overpay.

Elsewhere, last year a driver in Maidstone was issued with a parking ticket while he was in the process of feeding the meter. The council confirmed that there was no grace period to allow people time to park and pay, so the warden was within his rights to issue a ticket even as he saw the driver at the ticket machine. However, on appeal it dropped the charge.


We reported last September that parking charges are just the thin end of the wedge, because fines are a major earner for councils too. The figures showed that British motorists are paying more than £30 million a month in fines.

Some parking fines defy explanation. Last month we reported on a driver in Bradford who was given a parking ticket after a mobile camera photographed him stationary at a bus stop. The only problem was that he hadn't parked there: he had stopped at a red light. In this instance the driver appealed and the fine was cancelled.

In Cardiff a kidney transplant patient received 10 parking tickets when she was rushed in for emergency surgery in 2012. The woman had parked in a short-stay car park at the University Hospital of Wales with a note saying she was going to the transplant unit, when she went in for a checkup. However, she was rushed in for emergency surgery and was unable to remove her car before more than half the windscreen had been covered in tickets.

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