Stoke-on-Trent's parking machines in break down fiasco- despite £45k maintenance bill
PARKING pay-and-display machines across Stoke-on-Trent are breaking down more than 1,600 times a year – despite a £45,000 bill from a private firm to maintain them.
Engineers contracted by Stoke-on-Trent City Council are being called out 140 times every month to fix broken parking payment machines.
There are only 143 machines in the city – meaning each one is breaking down almost once a month on average.
The Sentinel has learned the authority spends £45,250 a year on a maintenance contract with a private company.
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It comes as the council has banked just £1.1 million from parking charges and fines between April and September – compared with the target of almost £1.5 million.
Most of the machines are breaking down because of jammed tickets or coins. Complaints are also being made about machines failing to issue tickets or refusing coins.
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transport, said: "Since the beginning of this financial year we have had to close a number of car parks as part of the city centre redevelopment – Crown, Castle and Warner Street have all closed – and on-street pay-and-display has been removed from Bethesda Street and is currently being removed from Percy Street.
"Inevitably having fewer machines affects the income generated and there is also the recession to take into account."
Opposition leader and independent councillor Dave Conway is calling on the council to scrap the maintenance contract and switch the machines off.
He is proposing an alternative system where residents sign up for a £40-a-year windscreen disc providing unlimited parking, with pay and display tickets sold in nearby shops and newsagents.
He said: "There are council-run car parks, including at least three in Tunstall, which have only one machine. If it's broken you are just losing money because motorists can't pay.
"This is a real mess. And it would cost too much to replace all of the machines."
Motorist Steven Miller, a call centre worker, of Silverdale, was last weekend fined for using Castle Street car park, in Hanley, which has been decommissioned but was left open.
He said: "The council says it is losing money on car parking, but there's a big car park right opposite the market on a Sunday which is not being used.
"If the council has an expensive contract and the machines keep on breaking then the authority should do something about it."