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Elderly drivers being 'forced' out of town centres by councils using cashless parking

Life & StyleElderly drivers being 'forced' out of town centres by councils using cashless parking

Campaigners have accused councils of forcing the elderly and disabled out of town centres as some are unable to pay for parking using an app. In England and Wales, 13 councils have become totally cashless, meaning motorists who struggle with technology or do not use a mobile phone are unable to pay.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said elderly drivers were being left out by councils insisting on moving to cashless payments.

She said: “Cash is the go-to payment method for many older people, including when they park their car.

“While no one particularly enjoys shoving coins into a meter, if you don’t have a smartphone or credit card, machines that don’t take cash are no use at all, making it even harder to find somewhere to park than it already is.

“More and more services are declining cash and threatening to disenfranchise millions of older people as a result. 

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He said: “Many people cannot access labyrinthine parking systems often accessible only via smartphones and this is certainly true of the most vulnerable.

“Why should they be forced online for the convenience of councils who should be there to serve residents, not fleece them?”

Almost half of councils now use parking machines that do not take coins, but instead require drivers to pay by phone app or bank card.

Latest data from Ofcom show that only 59 percent of people aged over 65 use a smartphone, compared to more than 90 percent aged between 16 and 54.

Greg Smith, Conservative MP for Buckingham, said that it was “vital” for drivers to be able to pay for parking using cash.

He added: “A majority of us have smartphones and are able to use cashless parking apps, but that doesn’t mean everyone can.

“To take it away is taking away the ability for many, especially the elderly and vulnerable, to go out.”

Many motorists have also voiced their concerns about parking apps charging them more, sometimes adding an additional fee of up to 30p per time.

Some have pointed out that councils and private operators set levels for service charges in co-operation with pay-by-phone firms.

Councils which have moved to cashless systems have told drivers that they could still use cash by finding designated PayPoints, located in shops around the areas.

Councillor David Renard, transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association,  said: “Councils are on the side of hard-pressed motorists, shoppers and businesses and look to offer a range of payment methods.

“Like so many organisations, councils have found the public welcome the convenience of online technology.

“But they also pay close attention to the needs of those for whom online payment isn’t attractive.

“Many councils make a loss on parking services but where they do make surpluses they are required to spend it on improving parking and transport facilities.”

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