Parking machine raids across Harborough district have cost you £21,000

Councillor Phil Knowles at the sainsbury's car park where machines are still not working.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-180221-082833005
Councillor Phil Knowles at the sainsbury's car park where machines are still not working.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-180221-082833005

A spate of raids by thieves on Harborough’s new parking machines have cost the District Council more than £21,000 so far this year.

Only about one-eighth of that (£2,700) is actual money taken from the machines.

The rest is machine repair costs (£3,500), additional anti-theft measures (£4,000) and estimated lost revenue from out-of-order machines (£11,000).

The figures were revealed in a written council reply to questions from Liberal Democrat district councillor Phil Knowles.

Cllr Knowles said: “I asked the questions because I thought it was important to understand exactly what the situation was.

“I think people are going to be quite shocked at the sum of money involved – more than £21,000. It’s an awful lot of money – and it’s from the public purse.

“I want to be certain that everything we can be doing is being done – and I especially want to know just when is the card payment facility going to come into play?

“The card payment option is clearly something that needs to be put into place as quickly as possible.”

The new parking machines were installed in August last year and have since become a frequent target for thieves.

Four parking payment machines in Market Harborough were broken into on the same night, earlier this month.

Thieves targeted machines in the Sainsbury’s and Market Hall car parks on Wednesday, February 7.

A parking supervisor monitoring machine activity noticed something unusual at 10pm and called the police.

But when the police arrived, the thieves made off in a black Volvo S40 with false number plates.

There is CCTV footage allegedly showing the thieves and parking staff are liaising with the police.

Thieves also tried to break into a parking payment machine in Lutterworth on Thursday, February 15, but failed to get into it – because it had extra security fitted.

Even so, the machine was damaged and is temporarily out of action, meaning repair costs and another potential loss of income.

The use of card payment not only gives customers more choice on how to pay, but also reduces the amount of cash in the machines.

But six months after the machines were installed, the district council could still not say exactly when the cashless payment option could be introduced.

A Harborough District Council spokesman said: “We expect to be able to switch on the ability to pay by card in the near future to improve customer choice on how to pay for their car parking.”

The spokesman pointed out that parking machine raids were not unique to the Harborough district.

“These incidents – which are occurring elsewhere in the country – obviously have a cost implication.

“However, additional security measures have been put in place and we are continuing to liaise with police, and have increased the frequency of the machines being emptied.”