A two-month delay for a planned hike in car parking charges is likely to have cost Central Beds Council an estimated £30,000 in extra revenue.
Back in November, the council controversially agreed to increase fees at its car parks in Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable much to the dismay of local traders and shoppers.
The new charges, scheduled to be introduced from January 1, were budgeted to bring in an extra £179,000 per year, but weren’t actually activated until February 29 because of delays in updating software on parking machines.
And when the new fees were finally implemented, confusion reigned as the car park noticeboards displaying the old tariffs weren’t updated to reflect the higher prices for several more days.
That meant, for example, motorists who paid £1 in the West Street multi-storey would have got a stay of up to 2 hours according to the outdated board, but the printed ticket indicated just an hour’s parking.
Central Beds Council has apologised for the discrepancy. A spokesman said: “Tickets purchased by customers using the old tariffs were honoured and until the tariff boards were changed there was no active enforcement of the car parks.”
When questioned on how the mistake had happened, he added: “Our priority has been putting a resolution in place, so at this point we are unable to say what happened, however it will be investigated.”
On the two-month delay in implementing the higher fees, he explained: “Changing tariffs on parking machines requires our contractors to make software changes and this is why they did not change on January 1.”
But Central Beds Councillor Carole Hegley said: “It was amazing to hear that following CBC’s Full Council meeting on November 19 last year when it was decided to increase parking charges, the implementation of the increases for January 1, 2016, did in fact take until February 29 to implement and that furthermore having had this time, the machines were changed to accept the new charges BUT the signs were not!
“Clearly this caused confusion in the car parks and has stimulated more negativity about the car parking charges and CBC management of this.”
Central Beds Council says the increase revenue from higher parking charges will be reinvested back into the service.
The CBC spokesman added: “One of the ways we will use this additional money is to improve the technology in our busiest car parks. This includes ‘pay on exit’ machines which will allow customers to pay for how long they parked rather than having to guess how long they will park there and over paying.”
A two-hour free parking trial will be introduced to Duncombe Drive car park soon, with the council saying it is finalising arrangements on what time and day this will be.
It also plans to raise £15,000 annually from charging for Sunday parking at the West Street multi-storey car park from April.