Council-operated car parks in Weymouth have been criticised for raking in over £3,500 on December 1 – despite suspending all charges for that day in a bid to boost small businesses in the town centre.
The shutdown coincided with Small Business Saturday, a campaign that encouraged shoppers to buy Christmas supplies and gifts locally rather than shopping online or using an out-of-town chain store.
However, a Freedom of Information request by a local resident has revealed that ticket machines still collected a total of £3,519.51 on the day – despite charges being officially suspended.
Locals said that they paid for parking at the time as signage was not obvious enough – with one user commenting on Facebook that “A laminate posted over each machine would be the obvious way to prevent people paying.”
It’s disappointed the Weymouth Business Improvement District (BID) which worked with Weymouth and Portland Borough Council to allocate the day’s free parking. Its chairman, Richard Lamb, told the Dorset Echo: “We communicate with people, but it is down to the council to deliver the free parking. We can only spread the word.
“People obviously don’t want to risk getting a fine for the sake of two or three pounds so if the free parking wasn’t clear they would have just paid.
“The council said it couldn’t put any messages on the actual machines or turn them off. I can’t understand why they can’t turn those machines off and go the extra mile. It’s just disappointing.”
The council responded, with councillor Colin Huckle telling the Echo: “We have used the same signage that we have used for the past two years, without any complaint. We cannot bag the machines as the majority are solar powered and need the solar panel to charge the battery. We advertised the free parking initiative on DorsetForYou, the media and on social media, too.
“We regret that this has happened. I can’t say what we are going to do with the £3,500. I don’t think we will be giving refunds because that would be impractical. Maybe we will make a donation with it, but I couldn’t say at the moment.”