East Devon parking machines take £32k in change

New car park at Union Street, Exmouth. Photo: Paul Strange.

New car park at Union Street, Exmouth. Photo: Paul Strange. - Credit: Archant

East Devon car parking machines have taken more than £32,000 as a result of not giving change, a Herald investigation can reveal.

Statistics released by a Freedom of Information request showed East Devon District Council introduced a new system which meant drivers overpaid an extra £16,946 in 2014/15 and £15,066 in 2015/16.

While, in 2013/14, there were no overpayments as ticket machines were programmed to give the appropriate time for the money inserted.

In the last three financial years, the council has made more than £3,100,000 per year in car parking revenue in Exmouth, Sidmouth, Honiton, Axminster, Budleigh Salterton, Beer, Seaton, Colyton, Lympstone and Ottery St Mary.

Sidmouth car parks were the second highest in the district for making a profit from not giving change, making an extra £8,293 - this worked out at £4,380 in 2014/15 and £3,910 in 2015/16.

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This money is used to fund the council’s car parks and help fund other council services.

Ottery St Mary made the lowest amount with £210 in 2014/15 and £226 in the following financial year, whereas Exmouth made the highest amount of all the areas making £11,677 from overpayments across the two periods.

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Honiton was third with £2,881 followed by Axminster with £2,139, and Budleigh Salterton with £1,510.

Beer took an added £1,038, Seaton made £663, Colyton made £538 and Lympstone made £438.

According to the information released by the FOI request, the authority introduced a new tariff with two-, three- and four-day permits, on April 1, 2014, because it gave customers more choice.

A Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce spokesman said they were aware the new minimum charge and ‘no change given’ arrangement represented an increase in parking charges throughout East Devon.

He added as with all EDDC parking charge increases, the impact was never properly considered or assessed. And, while it was presumed that an increase would result in more revenue, there was overwhelming evidence this was not the case.

He added: “Any increase which makes town centres less attractive destinations and discourages visitors is undesirable.

“In this case, it would be easy to think that they have gained about £15,000 per annum, but in fact the increased charge has probably deterred users, and so in reality no net gain has been achieved.

“The only effect has been to make our town centres a little quieter and irritate some of our visitors.”

A council spokeswoman said introducing the parking permits had meant customers could not buy parking time in 10p increments because there was not enough memory available in the current machines, so they introduced 50p increments.

This was because the number of ticket prices, which would be a new price point for every six minutes, to allow 10p increments, would be too much to continue alongside the new permit options.

To compromise, they introduced 50p increments on the same tariff, meaning customers would need to purchase parking in 30-minute periods rather than the previous six-minute increments - the minimum payment of 50p did not change.

She added their most popular transactions were, and continued to be, multiples of £1 and 50ps.

She also highlighted that if customers use Parkmobile, they only pay for the time they use.

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