Council boss admits no explicit approval was given for new car park ticketing system

The picture issued on Friday of the chairman of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council's Environmental Services Committee, Councillor Janet Gray MBE; vice-chairman Alderman James Tinsley and director of environmental services Heather Moore introducing the new updated ticketing system for the council's off-street pay and display car parks. The picture, which the council has insisted was 'for illustrative purposes only', was later recalled after the roll-out of the proposed scheme was suspended.
The picture issued on Friday of the chairman of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council's Environmental Services Committee, Councillor Janet Gray MBE; vice-chairman Alderman James Tinsley and director of environmental services Heather Moore introducing the new updated ticketing system for the council's off-street pay and display car parks. The picture, which the council has insisted was 'for illustrative purposes only', was later recalled after the roll-out of the proposed scheme was suspended.

The chief executive of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council has confirmed that staff were never given explicit approval to roll out a controversial new car park ticketing system in the area.

Yesterday the News Letter revealed how the local authority had been forced to shelve its plans to introduce new parking meters in eight council-run pay and display car parks amid confusion over whether the scheme had ever been given the go-ahead by elected representatives.

Cllr Alexander Redpath, UUP

Cllr Alexander Redpath, UUP

The new rules, due to have come into effect on January 21, would have required drivers to use alpha-numeric keypads to input their vehicle registration numbers when paying for parking.

After details of the scheme appeared on social media, many disgruntled drivers hit out at the council, accusing it of being “greedy” by trying to prevent motorists who are leaving car parks and have time left on their tickets from handing them over to other people.

Amid the angry public backlash, and concerns being voiced by elected members, the local authority said it had “delayed” the planned changes.

On Monday evening, aldermen and councillors received an email from council chief executive David Burns confirming that he could find “no explicit report to members to seek agreement to make active the alpha numeric keypad system”.

His email stated that officers progressed the proposed new ticketing system as there was “implicit agreement” through approval of the rates for 2018/19, but stressed that as there was no explicit decision taken the works have been “cancelled”.

Insisting that the council has “incurred no cost at this time”, he confirmed that officers will “revisit” the proposal before taking it to the relevant committee for further consideration.

Speaking to the News Letter yesterday, Ulster Unionist Cllr Nicholas Trimble welcomed the suspension of the controversial scheme and said he was planning to raise the issue at last night’s meeting of full council.

UUP deputy group leader, Cllr Alexander Redpath, said the proposed parking changes had caused “enormous concern to residents and business owners” and stressed that he and his party colleagues opposed their introduction.

“Affordable parking is a key economic driver for our city centre. It is important that councillors stand up for our ratepayers and oppose changes to our car parking arrangements which discourage people from visiting the city centre,” he said.

The leader of the council’s DUP group, Alderman James Tinsley, said there had been “a misunderstanding” and stressed that members of his party had also called for the roll out of the scheme to be suspended.