An elderly Harrow resident has complained after not being able to pay cash to park in the town centre after parking machines were scrapped.
A ‘mystery shopping’ exercise by Harrow Council revealed that just one of the five stores obligated to offer the cash service actually did so.
The council scrapped pay and display machines permanently in January. Instead, drivers have three options to pay – either via PayByPhone app, the PayByPhone call or text service, or by paying in cash at a nearby PayPoint convenience store.
However, Andriana Neal, a pensioner with mobility issues, told councillors at a recent Cabinet meeting (October 26) that most of the shops “aren’t interested” in accepting cash for parking and she “doesn’t have the modern technology” to do it over the phone.
Signs have been put up around the paid parking locations, which shows where the nearest PayPoint stores are so drivers can pay by cash. The shops that should be offering the cash services for parking in South Harrow are Everyday Superstore, ES Food and Wine, AA Star Superstore, The Harrow Convenience Store and Asda – all located on Northolt Road.
Andriana said: “I’m 79 years old, my husband’s 85, he has to take me to South Harrow and drop me off. I go to Specsavers, or the Post Office, or the chemist, or the market. I’ve lived in South Harrow since 1964, my independence is gone.”
She added: ”I’ve been [to the stores] half a dozen times […[ they say the same things. I can’t get them to issue tickets because they’re not interested. They don’t know why Harrow Council has even put them on the signage.”
Andriana has been in touch with the council’s head of digital since April, but said they “have got nowhere”. She claims it has already cost her over £18 in messages asking for help from the local authority..
She said: “I don’t know where to go, all I know is I can’t park. All these years I’ve been shopping in South Harrow, I can’t be the only one who hasn’t got the modern technology, or doesn’t even understand the technology.
“I’ve got a very cheap £20 phone with a Pay As You Go SIM card. I can’t download, I wouldn’t know how to download anyway. I can’t do anything so how am I going to park or live a normal life in South Harrow?”
Council leader, councillor Paul Osborn told the committee that, following a ‘mystery shopping’ exercise carried out by council officers, it was found that “concerningly only Asda” was accepting cash for parking sessions.
He said: “We are urgently escalating this to PayByPhone who will raise the matter with PayPoint as this is a condition of the stores’ contract with PayPoint so that they process all transactions. I have asked officers to undertake mystery shopping exercises across all the stores in Harrow which should be taking cash payments for car parking.
“This will mean that we can identify and deal with any other stores across the borough who are failing to carry out their duties. I can only apologise for the inconvenience that might have caused. We will continue to do this mystery shopping exercise throughout the year and will do it on a regular basis going forward.”
Cllr Osborn advised that the council can ensure she can get set up on her phone so she can pay by that method. Andriana said.“I’m one of these old-fashioned people that worries if I’ve got to keep giving my bank details over the phone.”