Drivers take a pounding

Wigan Council is in a war of words with a leading motoring organisation as it insisted work upgrading parking meters to take the new 1 coins is on the right road.
Wigan Council is in a war of words with a leading motoring organisation as it insisted work upgrading parking meters to take the new 1 coins is on the right road.

Wigan Council is in a war of words with a leading motoring organisation as it insisted work upgrading parking meters to take the new £1 coins is on the right road.

The town hall hit back after the AA claimed Freedom of Information (FOI) research showed the borough was badly lagging behind in ensuring people can pay to park at the road side.

The organisation’s data showed that not a single machine had been updated as of July, even though the target date to complete the upgrade month.

The council insists that although the data was initially right it is now out of date, because work began almost directly after the FOI research was conducted and is now going well.

All the meters at the borough’s roadsides and pavements have already been altered and only the off-street parking places still require work, the town hall says. However, it looks likely that the council may miss its target date and work will run into September.

The local authority also hit out at the AA over the language used to announce its research, saying it is not the town hall that is directly responsible for the upgrade work and it is therefore misleading to say councils were dragging their feet.

Karl Battersby, Wigan Council’s director for economy and environment, said: “The parking machines are managed by an external company on behalf of the council and we have been on their waiting list to get all machines reprogrammed to accept the new £1 coins.

“All on-street metric machines now accept them and we are waiting for the off street car park machines to be upgraded.

“We have been reassured this will be done in the next few weeks. However we have already put measures in place to make it as easy as possible for people to park in the borough.

“We do offer several different ways for people to pay for parking so they do not need the exact change for pay and display car parks, for example by card or phone.

“It is stated clearly on some machines that they don’t give change along with the tariffs. If someone doesn’t have correct change there are a number of car parks that allow them to pay on exit or by phone.

“Any income generated through all parking charges are used to contribute towards the cost of maintaining the car parks, local road network and transport related-projects.”

However, the work schedule means that some of the venues where most frustration has been caused by the inability to use the new coins, such as the borough’s hospital, will still not be upgraded and will be among the last in Wigan to change.

The issue hit the headlines earlier this year when a resident was fined for parking on Wigan

Lane outside the hospital after she was following an ambulance in a family medical emergency but did not have enough change which the machine would accept with her.

The AA criticised the speed of work after its research showed that by last month around one in five UK councils were still presiding over areas where the new coins could not be used.

The FOI found 74 of 340 local authorities still had some car parks where meters did not take new £1 coins.

The AA also warned that the pay-by-phone methods did not always work and confused some motorists.

The organisation’s president, Edmund King, said: “Problems with converting parking ticket machines to accept the new £1 coin are not the drivers’ fault.

“If councils are having difficulties because their contractors are under pressure, or because replacement machines, parts, or software have yet to be delivered, the driver shouldn’t be blamed,”