People are continuing to pay Brighton and Hove City Council for parking permits – only to end up with parking fines instead.
And some of them have spoken out about the problems that they have endured since the council added parking permits to its “My Account” system.
The “future-proof” system – provided by a company called Ubisecure – came with a promise of “easy access”, “reduced IT support time and costs” and a “streamlined user experience”.
Ubisecure promised “improved user satisfaction as residents also save time by managing their own account” which also covers council tax, rubbish and recycling, applying for school places.
Here’s what some of them had to say …
Roundhill resident Maria Bonner filled in her zone J parking permit renewal in August but the council website told her that she did not live in a residents’ parking zone.
Yet she has had a parking permit for 10 years – ever since the council created the zone – and has lived at her address for the past 20 years.
Ms Bonner emailed the council and received a response saying that officials were looking into the problem.
Late last month she had her first parking ticket. She asked the parking enforcement officer whether there were any notes against her car’s registration to highlight the permit renewal problem but there was nothing.
Ms Bonner said: “I signed up for My Account before all this palaver – so I do exist!
“I pay my council tax, have garden waste recycling … It’s all on there. I exist in their system but I no longer ‘live’ in a controlled parking zone.”
Green councillor Pete West, whose St Peter’s and North Laine ward includes Roundhill, said that he had received similar reports from other Roundhill residents and passed the case on to parking officials.
The council suggested going back into My Account and resubmitting the postcode although Ms Bonner said that her road did not have a new postcode.
Taxi driver Alex Dukakis, of Westbourne Villas, Hove, paid for his permit to be renewed but has received several parking tickets and battled with the council for two months.
He ended up turning to Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth to intervene to help him get his permit.
Mr Dukakis renewed his parking permit in July, ready for it to start in August. The money went out of his account but the council failed to send him his new permit.
When he received his first few parking tickets, he realised that his new permit had not been issued.
Mr Dukakis said: “It’s taken me two months of constant emails back and forth, through the council website and through me hectoring them to get a response about what’s going on.
“For a long time, I was getting rebuffed, that I hadn’t applied properly. I kept getting tickets. I had seven at my house but the council said I had more.
“They were treating me as though I was thick but I proved to them I’d paid with my bank statement – and they couldn’t find the proof of payment.”
After repeated requests to have someone call him, a council official called at the end of last month and his permit was sent to him.
Mr Dukakis said: “I’ve started getting emails saying my tickets have been rescinded. I don’t think it’s good enough.
“They need to be held accountable. If your council tax is a day late, they’re all over you.”
A council official told Mr Dukakis that he had filled in a form on the old system, prompting him to ask why the old system had still been publicly accessible.
Tricia Wildig, from the Fiveways area, ordered 10 visitor parking permits in August but had received nothing by late last month despite the council taking £35 out of her bank account.
Mrs Wildig said: “They’ve got all our details. They are not the first ones I’ve ever bought. I’ve never had problems online.
“I’ve had acknowledgement and they said if we need proof of residence, we’ll let you know – and I never heard anything so I assumed they were on their way.
“I’ve never had to prove my residence. I have a parking permit.”
She has emailed the council and filled in two complaint forms but has heard nothing back.
After trying to call the parking office, the line “just rang and rang”. She said: “I’ve heard people say it can take more than half an hour. I have a life.”
After contacting her Preston Park ward councillors, the permits arrived on Friday (1 October).
Councillor Nemeth raised the issue of parking permit problems at the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee meeting on Tuesday 21 September.
The meeting was told that thousands of people were affected by the problems – and Councillor Nemeth added that putting everything online excluded people who struggled with technology.
The council’s assistant director for transport Mark Prior told councillors that he was working on the issue every day with the head of parking services because there were several problems with IT and the post office.
Councillor Nemeth said: “It’s quite shocking how many different ways the new system fails. From unclear instructions to requests for incorrect documents, nothing seems to work.
“It should have been trialled gradually, area by area. I will continue to scrutinise the administration until resolved.”
The council said: “We would like to apologise for the delays some residents have experienced with receiving their parking permits.
“We have had some issues with our current postal delivery partner and are working towards agreeing terms with a different service.
“Our parking service will be recruiting additional staff over the next couple of months. We hope this will help meet customer demand and improve our response levels to queries from residents.
“We are working extremely hard to improve our customer journey so that all residents will benefit from the long-term advantages of moving more council services to My Account, including increased security and ease of use.
“We recognise that there is work still to be done. However, the root causes of the issues we’re experiencing do not lie with Ubisecure.
“We are confident that will be soon be able to provide the full benefits the Ubisecure service and our other technology platforms offer.”
When Councillor Nemeth asked about the problems at a previous, he was told that parking tickets were being cancelled and people trying to renew bus passes were also facing delays.
Anyone who has paid for a permit which has not turned up is asked to get in touch with the parking team at www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/contactparking.