Uttlesford District Council only create card for parking machines after losing more than £7,000 to theft

Car parking ticket machines in an Essex district will only be upgraded to the card after a local council lost around £7,500 to theft last year. Members of the Uttlesford District Council cabinet said cash machines were ‘piggy banks waiting to be raided’ as they approved plans last night (March 29).

According to a municipal report, 19 ATMs were damaged following thefts in 2021. These were later changed to card only. Council portfolio holder and public services adviser Richard Freeman (Residents of Uttlesford, Saffron Walden Castle) said the machines could each hold up to £1,000 in cash and cost an additional £1,000 to fix them.

He said: “The catalyst came when we had a significant amount of cash theft, because basically an ATM with a lot of cash in it is basically a piggy bank waiting to be looted.”

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Later he said: ‘Unfortunately someone figured out how to get in there and armed themselves appropriately and a number of these machines were very professionally broken into and the money was stolen.’

Cllr Freeman also said the £7,500 lost from the machines was untraceable as it was cash. Replacing the remaining 18 cash machines which currently only accept cash payments is expected to cost £63,875 according to the report.

The council has an unspent £92,000 pot that was allocated to replace 23 old cash machines in the district in 2016, which will be used to upgrade them to the card only.

Machines in the Swan Meadow car park in Saffron Walden were replaced with cards only during a trial last year. In the White Street car park in Great Dunmow, all but one of the ticket machines have been replaced by cards only as part of the trial. The remaining cash machine was later broken into and its contents stolen.

The District Council owns or operates 10 off-street pay and display car parks in Saffron Walden, Great Dunmow and Stansted Mountfitchet. There are 37 ticket machines which are a mix of cash or card, but all users can use the MiPermit app to pay for parking.

According to the report, during a user consultation, one person complained that they could not use the machines for health and welfare reasons. This person received a free 12-month subscription to allow them to continue using the car parks. A larger survey of car parking across the district has been commissioned.