Plans to scrap all the city’s pay and display machines amount to discrimination against senior citizens, a councillor has claimed.

Brighton and Hove City Council voted earlier this year in favour of getting rid of all of the pay and display machines in an effort to save costs.

A report said the measure, which would save around £220,000, would eliminate the “large budget pressure” for converting all machines to 4G by early 2023, as well as lead to savings on cash collection, maintenance and other costs.

The report highlighted that the move risked impacts around “digital exclusion” as “all payments would be through the Pay by Phone app”.

The Argus: Cllr Theobald said forcing residents and visitors to use an app to pay for parking would cause problemsCllr Theobald said forcing residents and visitors to use an app to pay for parking would cause problems (Image: The Argus)

Carol Theobald, Conservative councillor for Patcham, said that she has often had issues trying to pay for parking using the app and it could pose real problems for visitors and residents alike.

She said: “I think it’s awful and there has been no real consultation. I can’t believe it is happening.

“What happens to residents and visitors who have not downloaded the app? There will be a good number who would not know how to do this. In my view, this is discrimination against our senior citizens.”

Cllr Theobald also said fewer people would choose to visit Brighton and Hove if the parking machines are removed.

She said: “I think some people will very upset and won’t know what to do or where to park. They’ll go to Eastbourne or Worthing or somewhere else instead.

“There are no benefits to the Pay by Phone system - the council just can’t be bothered to have someone come and collect the money.”

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Other councils across England have taken similar measures, blaming the cost of changing meters over to 4G as mobile operators prepare to switch off their outdated 3G networks.

However, Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, raised concerns that scrapping the machines would have an adverse effect on older people and the less tech-savvy.

She said: “More than most, older people need to be able to park close to shops and amenities, especially if they find it hard to walk very far.

“The news that we may soon see the end of pay and display parking is disastrous for anyone without a smartphone, including millions of older people who are struggling with the shift away from the coin-in-the-slot payment methods they used throughout their lives.

“We are still light years away from a world in which digital tech can help everyone and public bodies and businesses running car park services need to recognise this before it is too late.

“It would be completely unfair to exclude swathes of our older population from being able to park by requiring everyone to use an app - there should always be an alternative off-line payment method available too.”

The Argus:

A council spokesman confirmed that, while no machines so far have been removed, all pay and display machines in the city will be scrapped by May 31.

However, machines will remain at the council’s off-street barrier car parks.

He said: “Councillors approved last month measures to remove all pay and display machines in Brighton and Hove.

“The removal will lead to significant cost savings at a time when all councils are having to address huge financial challenges, brought on by years of government cuts to funding and also inflation.

“Currently, 78 per cent of all on-street parking transactions in Brighton and Hove are made using the Pay by Phone app and telephone number, with 22 per cent made using the machines. Only two per cent are cash payments.

“People who have a debit or credit card but without access to the app can still pay by calling the telephone number.

“For the small number of people without the use of a debit or credit card, parking can still be purchased at one of the more than 150 Paypoint vendors across the city.

“Machines will remain in our off-street barrier car parks.”

Councillors also voted through significant increases in parking costs and fines in the budget meeting, in an attempt to plug a multimillion-pound black hole in the city's finances. 

Some of the city's lifeguard stations were also cut as part of the savings made.