East Sussex County Council has apologised for a number of ‘transitional problems’ after moving its parking shop services into three of its library buildings.
Bill Bentley, the council’s lead member for communities and safety heard how the council had received ‘negative customer feedback’ after a major shake up of its parking services at a meeting today (Tuesday December 18).
The changes, which were brought in earlier this year, had seen an expansion of the council’s online parking service while over-the-counter parking services had been moved into Eastbourne, Hastings and Lewes libraries.
The changes had come in for some criticism, including a 162-petition from Lewes residents which called on the council to allow residents to buy parking permits without registering online.
Attending the meeting on behalf of the petitioners, Lewes district councillor Stephen Catlin said: “It is not the largest petition you will have seen but the majority of those filling it in are disabled in some respect and this is why there is still a continuing problem.
“One lady who went in to Lewes library and said she couldn’t manage the computer was told she would really have to learn.
“The woman was suffering from macular degeneration. She is never going to be able to manage a computer.
“We need a little more understanding from library staff as to why people cannot do it at home.”
Earlier in the meeting, officers spoke about the support the council offered to those who found it difficult to go online.
The support included the offer of home visits, the ability to register for permits over the phone and help from parking staff in each of the libraries once a week.
Officers said the council was also in the process of simplifying its system to buy visitor scratch card permits, which the council says will remove the need for multiple library visits.
The changes are expected to be brought in January and would come alongside work to make the council’s website easier, officers said.
Cllr Bentley said: “I think it is one of those things where experience has shown us that there some improvements that need to be made and these have been put in process.
“I think what is important, is what is delivered in the changes to the computer access. I fully understand the issues you refer to regarding disabilities. Prior to taking on this role, for 12 years I was lead member for adult social care here and I have disabled members of my family as well.
“I do think it is important that what we put in place, as far as the computer is concerned, are as hand-holding as possible.”
To this end, Cllr Bentley said he would agree to a recommendation for the county council’s parking website – and the website from its parking contractor NSL – to be comprehensively reviewed to make them as accessible as possible.
He also highlighted the plans to simplify the collection of visitor permits from the libraries from January.
In addition, Cllr Bentley said he would write to each of the councillors who have the libraries within their wards, asking them to formally update him on how this system was working.
Before closing the meeting, Cllr Bentley paid tribute to library staff. He said: “I am very proud of them. At the end of the day, they are librarians. Their first love is of books not of parking tickets.
“Nevertheless they have stepped up and are doing a really, really good job and I am grateful to them.”