Cashless parking could leave some 'locked out' of Newcastle city centre

Eldon Square car park, Newcastle
The council said the move to cashless payments will make parking more efficient and cost-effective. Credit: NCJ Media

Cash payments are set to be removed from Newcastle’s council-run car parks, despite concerns the move could leave low-income families and the elderly “locked out” of the city centre.

The switch to cashless-only payments will impact on-street parking and all of the city council’s car parks - including the Eldon Square and Eldon Garden multi-storeys - from this week.

Drivers will pay for their parking using either a bank card or mobile app, which has sparked concerns about a “disproportionate impact” on the disabled, older people, those with limited internet access, and low-income households who rely on physical money.

Newcastle City Council said the move to cashless payments will make parking more efficient and cost-effective, although some councillors have called for the changes to be delayed and for a cash payment option to be retained.

However, last week Tracey Mitchell, Newcastle Independents councillor, called for the changes to be delayed, accusing the council of a “disinterest in the needs of customers".

Councillor Mitchell said: “Car park users choosing to use cash should still have the option to do so and failure to provide this option threatens to lock older drivers and low-income households out of the city centre.”

A motion, which was raised by Cllr Mitchell, was voted down by the city’s ruling Labour group and was not subject to a debate as the meeting concluded.

Lemington ward councillor Jason Smith likened the move to cashless-only payments to the controversial proposals to close railway ticket offices.

The changes have also prompted concerns about driver's safety if their whereabouts are able to be tracked through card payments or apps, such as victims of domestic abuse.

The Eldon Square car park will have its cash payments removed on Tuesday 10 October, followed by Eldon Garden on 17 October.

Councillor Jane Byrne, the council’s cabinet member for transport, said: “Many people already prefer to use cashless payments for parking but others may be less confident about paying by card or by phone.

"When we carried out consultation earlier this year we received very useful feedback from organisations including Newcastle Disability Forum and the Elders’ Council.

“This has helped us to understand any concerns and look at how we can help people adjust to new payment methods.

"We have a range of support options in place which we hope will help people to understand and feel reassured about changing the way they pay for parking.”

Support will be provided for people who need help with the new system, with parking staff on hand to provide in-person assistance during the first few days of the changes and a drop-in session at the City Library on 23 October.

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