Uttlesford District Council to offer car park payment by text

UTTLESFORD District Council is considering the introduction of customer-friendly car park payment by text message.

The council is also planning to introduce free parking after 5pm in its pay-and-display car parks in Saffron Walden, Great Dunmow and Stansted.

Text message payment will enable people who prefer not to carry coins or do not have the correct change available to pay using their mobile phone, and will enable people to extend their stay without returning to their car to purchase a new ticket.

Options for payment by debit or credit card are also being explored. The facility to pay by coins will still be available.

The council intends to retain the popular 30 minute tariffs in its car parks, which distinguish Uttlesford’s car parks from others in the region. The council is also planning to make available longer term parking in Saffron Walden town centre, to meet popular demand.

To enable these improvements, the council is proposing modest increases on the existing car park tariffs from April 2012, which will be the first increases since 2008.

The plans, if approved, will include a commitment not to make any further increases in car park charges until at least 2016. The planned increases, just 10 or 20 pence in most cases, are caused in part by last year’s VAT rise from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent, and are made in the context of a 28 per cent cut in the council’s funding from central government, one of the most severe council funding cuts in the country.

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In addition, due to the up-coming change in size of 5p and 10p coins the payment machines will have to be adjusted to accommodate this, which is an extra cost.

The proposed rises will form part of the discussions at the council’s scrutiny committee in December and the cabinet in January and will be made available for consultation in the coming weeks. The council intends to consult local business on the proposals and implement the new arrangements once agreed from April 16, 2012.

Cabinet member for environmental services, Cllr Susan Barker, said: “Investment in text message payment technology will deliver a major improvement in customer service.

“By introducing free parking after 5pm, retaining the 30 minute tariff and enabling longer term parking in Saffron Walden town centre, these proposals ensure that our towns remain attractive and affordable places to visit.”

Cabinet member for finance, Cllr Robert Chambers, said: “We regret the necessity of any increase in car park charges. However, the additional income generated will help us to freeze the district council element of the council tax bill, and protect vital council services at a time of unprecedented cuts in Government funding.”