Drivers Lose A Fortune To No Change Parking Meters

Local councils criticised as no change parking meters overcharge motorists hundreds of thousands of pounds

Swansea Council pockets extra £231,000

Parking meters that refused to give change overcharged long suffering, heavily taxed, motorists hundreds of thousands of pounds between 2014 and 2017 throughout Wales, the BBC reported. The City and County of Swansea Council alone – 1 of 22 – pocketed £12.2 million from parking fees of which £231,000 came from overpayments. 

Other culprits included:

  • Rhondda Cynon Taf County Council - £2.9 million (142,000)
  • Carmarthenshire County Council - £7.7 million (£146,000)
  • Caerphilly County Council - £1.8 million (£74,000)
  • Merthyr Tydfil County Council - £1.4 million (£52,000)

These figures could be the tip of the iceberg. The BBC freedom of information request incorporated all the councils, but half could not confirm how much extra they received because their meters refused to give change. In contrast, a handful revealed they did not operate such meters and Newport City Council failed to respond.

Stealth tax

The TaxPayers’ Alliance works to “give taxpayers a voice in the corridors of power”, it explained. It further suggested there is a perception that councils use no change meters to stealth tax motorists which already contribute enough to local council coffers.

The Alliance Coordinator in Wales, Lee Canning, also said any extra money was not necessarily spent improving life for motorists. There was no requirement to do so, he explained. This he considered unacceptable. “I think it is important that all the money made in this way is reinvested in improving car parks", Mr Canning claimed.

RAC criticises no change parking meters

The RAC Foundation took a dim view of no change parking meters, too. Director Steve Gooding explained: "Some will say why all the fuss about a few pence here and there? However, these numbers soon add up. Drivers might reasonably ask whether this isn't more of a money spinner than a way of managing traffic”, Mr Gooding revealed.

Councils respond to criticism

City and County of Swansea Council implied it is working to minimise the number of people that overpay by cash. A spokesperson claimed: "We have been introducing credit and debit card machines at some of our busiest car parks.” It also plans to introduce a cashless payment option via smartphone, the spokesperson suggested. 

Other local councils responded more bullishly which is unlikely to comfort cash-strapped motorists. Sentiments included:

  • It is more expensive to operate machines that provide change
  • Many motorists pay online or via smartphone
  • Parking meters cannot give change for security reasons
  • Any extra money is spent within the community