Millions of mature drivers could be restricted from taking simple trips to their town because they won’t have the capacity to pay for parking, says Britain’s breakdown recovery provider Start Rescue.
As local authorities increasingly move to ‘pay by app’ systems, pensioners who do not have a smartphone will find themselves high and dry at parking bays in the UK’s towns and cities.
The move away from cash and card payments has been accelerated by mobile phone providers switching off 3G data networks, on which some parking machines operate.
The London borough of Bromley removed all its machines in April citing a £1 million outlay even though 27% of parking transactions were still conducted by cash as recently as November 2022.
Currently there are at least 30 different smartphone apps to pay parking charges. Britain’s biggest parking app is RingGo with 19 million users, but other major players such as ParkMe, Parkopedia, Just Park, and PayByPhone are looking to expand.
Most operate using apps but with some, such as RingGo, you can call and book your spot over the phone. There is still no way of paying by card or cash directly, though.
While the younger generation of drivers with smartphones may well be unaffected by the proliferation of parking apps, there could be literally millions of elderly people who won’t be able to pay for parking just because they don’t have a smartphone.
Data from Ofcom shows that only 68% of those aged 65 or over use a smartphone to go online. With more than 9.2 million drivers on our roads in the same age group according to the DVLA, that suggests there are potentially 2.9 million older drivers without access to apps to enable them to pay for parking. And with the UK’s ageing population, that figure is only likely to grow over time.
Concerns about how mature drivers will pay for parking have been raised by a number of organisations including the National Pensioners Convention.
Jan Shortt, General Secretary of the National Pensioners Convention said, “The drive towards digital-only seriously disadvantages millions of older people who cannot afford smart phones, tablets or broadband to get online.
“We appreciate it is more convenient for councils and parking companies to opt for digital-only payments, but cash is still legal tender, and in the Queen’s Speech the government announced legislation to ensure that the option to pay by cash must remain.
“Technology is fine for most things, but when it excludes individuals from services, or does not work efficiently, then we have to ask why and especially if it is not compatible with the Equality 2010 Act that says goods and services must be accessible to all customers.”
Lee Puffett, managing director of Start Rescue, adds: “One might reasonably assume in today’s digital age that everyone has a smartphone, and therefore the ability to pay for all manner of goods and services.
“But when you consider that potentially 2.9 million people could be denied carrying out simple shopping trips because there is no way they can pay for parking, then it’s clear there is a problem. It’s not just a handful of people who will be affected by this.
“Local authorities have a problem, but it is also a national issue that needs to be addressed. Elderly people like to use cash and they are perfectly willing to pay – and they should have that option available to them. If local authorities want parking revenue they must make payment methods that are easy for all of society, not just the younger generation.”
He added, “The older members of our society are rightly worried. Their lives will be hindered by the threat of parking fines, tow-aways, clamping and so on if they find themselves on an essential trip to the pharmacy with no ability to pay for parking.
“We need to give our older generation respect and what seems like an inexorable switch to parking apps just makes their lives even more difficult, and at a time when many are already worried about the cost of living. The inevitable flood of parking fines that will result simply adds to the problem.”