Council refuses to back down over cashless parking

Parking meters now being ripped out across Enfield despite demand from Michael Gove to keep cash options for drivers, reports James Cracknell

A sign at New River Car Park in Enfield Town, which has had its parking meter removed
A sign at New River Car Park in Enfield Town, which has had its parking meter removed

Enfield Council has refused to back down in response to a letter from Michael Gove calling on the local authority to continue allowing cash payments for parking.

The council is pressing ahead with the removal of its parking meters this month, despite a backlash from drivers who say they will struggle to pay if they don’t have a smartphone.

Fears have arisen that the move will lead to “digital exclusion” for elderly drivers who struggle with new technology. As Enfield and other councils have made moves to axe cash payments, Secretary of State Michael Gove last week wrote to all local authorities asking them to continue providing a means to pay for parking using cash.

However, it remains unclear what powers could be used by Gove – who runs the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – to stop parking meters being ripped out.

In his letter to Enfield and other councils, Gove wrote: “All local authorities have existing statutory duties to ensure that they do not discriminate in their decision-making against older people or those with vulnerabilities. Cash remains legal tender and it will continue to be used in our daily lives by people who favour its accessibility and ease.

“I am therefore concerned that local authorities should ensure that there are alternative provisions for parking payments available so that no part of society is digitally excluded. This is of course important for many areas in preserving the accessibility of our high streets and town centres for all the public.”

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Enfield Council has not responded to Gove’s letter and a spokesperson today (Thursday) stood by the original statement given to the Dispatch in February to justify the removal of parking meters in the borough, when they said the council wanted to “reduce the amount of street furniture on the borough’s pavements” and that cashless parking methods were “now being used more”.

The council spokesperson reiterated that drivers still had the option to buy parking scratchcards in advance or pay in shops displaying the PayPoint sign – however, concerns have also now been raised that too few shops in the borough are signed up to the PayPoint scheme.

Alessandro Georgiou, leader of the opposition Conservative group at Enfield Civic Centre, told the Dispatch that at least two PayPoint shops were needed in every town centre for cashless parking to work effectively and that this was not currently the case. Cockfosters only has one PayPoint shop, located half-a-mile from the start of its main shopping area, while Oakwood has none whatsoever.

On the council’s decision to scrap all its parking meters, Cllr Georgiou said: “Quite frankly this is a disgraceful decision which will increase the digital divide between residents that have smartphones and are able to use them and those that don’t.”

For more information about parking in Enfield:

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