York council bosses have apologised for the way they introduced a digital parking permit scheme after residents branded it “a total nightmare”.
City of York Council scrapped paper permits for most people and moved to an online system in September last year in a bid to make the system more efficient.
But calls to the council rocketed once the system was introduced, putting “enormous” pressure on staff – with some going on to quit as a result, according to a council report.
Executive member for transport Cllr Andy D’Agorne admitted the first month of the roll-out had been a “car crash” in terms of the strain it put on the council’s call centre.
Issues have included residents struggling to use the online system, particularly on mobile phones, difficulties registering addresses and only being able to renew a permit once the old one has expired.
Resident Jo Coles told a meeting of the economy and place policy and scrutiny committee: “Change is normally great if it makes things better, but these digital parking permits have made things more complicated and less convenient.
“They cause unnecessary stress, anxiety and pressure on the relatives and carers of elderley and vulnerable residents.”
Digital visitor permits are also said to be less flexible as people can not always predict who will visit their property. Previously, a paper ticket could simply be left out for a visitor to fill in.
Resident Andrew Mortimer said some of his elderly neighbours were asking visitors not to come round because they found the system so difficult.
Committee chair Cllr Kallum Talyor said: “Digital first can sometimes feel like digital only at this council.”
People who cannot access the internet are still able to get paper tickets at West Offices.
Quizzed by Cllr Taylor, Cllr D’Agorne apologised for the difficulties that some residents had experienced. Head of highways and transport, Dave Atkinson, also apologised.
“With the benefit of hindsight there are some things that we didn’t get quite right,” Cllr D’Agorne said.
“I’m doing my best to work with officers to try to resolve the outstanding issues.”
Cllr Pete Kilbane said: “I think ‘positive progress’ is whitewashing a situation which is still a total nightmare 14 months after it went live.”
A key complaint from residents has been the inability to check whether a car is parked legally because there is no visible ticket. An update to the system should allow for residents to check online whether a vehicle has a permit by summer 2023.
Director of transport James Gilchrist said the council had been able to make savings in its call centre by moving to the digital system.
Cllr Dave Taylor said he thought moving to a digital service was a good idea in principle.
But he added: “It was a great mistake to take those financial savings at that time because it clearly led to a great deal of pressure for the existing staff and the residents of the city.”
Councillors made a series of recommendations for Cllr D’Agorne to consider, including using more paper permits and a resident troubleshooting forum.