Southend cashless parking plan raises concern for elderly

Controversial plans to ditch cash payments at dozens of car parks across Southend will be “unfair” on elderly residents in the city, it is claimed.

The rise in contactless, online and card payments is said to be behind the proposal, which will affect 28 council-run car parks and 2,000 on-street parking bays.

Currently drivers can pay by cash or card, but Southend Council says the trend towards cashless payments could see physical money ditched entirely.

But critics insist there will “always be a need for cash” at car parks, with one warning the scheme risks alienating elderly residents.

A council report outlining the proposals claims the pandemic has sparked a surge in cashless payments at car parks.

The report revealed 77 per cent of payments were cashless over the last year, compared to 64 per cent the year before.

It added: “All of our pay and display machines have a contactless card payment functionality.

“Similarly, there is the option to pay via our cashless provider, Mobon.

“It is expected that this shift in customer behaviour will continue and may even demonstrate that cash is no longer used and or the evidence to support the removal of cash in its entirety.”

Councillor Tony Cox, leader of Southend Council’s Conservative Group, admits he has concerns over the idea.

He said: “I don’t think you can eradicate it entirely. Not everyone has access to a smartphone or the ability to pay online.

“There will always be a need for cash payments.”

Peter Lovett, vice-chairman of the Shoebury Residents’ Association, added: “They’ve already tried cashless payments at Shoebury Common car park. There are two ticket machines for up to 170 spaces.

“One is card only and we had to fight hard to get a cash machine. It’s caused chaos.

“Older people don’t use cards. I’m totally opposed to this.”

The report outlining the cashless plan has revealed the council issued 59,690 parking tickets over the last year.

It earned £9.4 million in parking revenue and penalty charge notices.

This was up from £5.1 million in 2020/21 and £8.8 million in 2019/20, when the COVID lockdown hit parking revenue.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter