Money lost to no-change parking metres should be considered a "donation" says a member of Torridge District Council in Devon. Their 22 council parking charge machines give no change and generate £40,000 a year in overpayments.
"Typically £1 is used instead of 90p and we treat these overpayments as a donation," says Council leader Philip Collins. "I think we should be open with the public and say at least we guarantee that it goes towards local charities."
How about giving the money back to the public and letting them decide what they want to spend it on?
This statement comes hot on the heels of the revelation that Cornwall Council makes over £300,000 on no-change parking machines. Again the council views this as a ‘donation’. "The amount of overspend only represents about 2% of our total income from car parking charges," says a council spokesperson. "Like any surplus parking income, it is used to support transportation requirements such as road maintenance and concessionary bus fares." That’s what the money should be spent on, but clearly Torridge District Council feel is it ‘their’ money to spend on a range of charity projects.
It is a countrywide problem and is raking in millions of extra pounds from motorists that they shouldn’t be paying. Across North Yorkshire and the North East it has been estimated that more than 1600 council parking metres do not give change, bringing in between £300,000 and £600,000. Council authorities remain unapologetic.
"The fact that the machines do not give change is clearly labelled on all units," says a Middlesborough Council spokesperson. "The machines are however programmed to accept overpayment. Some customers prefer to pay extra rather than having to go and obtain change possibly by having to make a purchase they don’t need." Well, there you go, they’re doing us a favour by keeping our money!
Tim Newark is the Grassroots Co-ordinator of the South West TaxPayers' Alliance