Apology letters from Kingston Council in response to a flood of complaints about the digitisation of parking permits cost more than £11,000 to send out.

Changes to the council's parking contract in July mean that all parking permits for Kingston residents and visitors are now digital so permits can now only be accessed online.

The letter, sent out on September 11, apologised for the “inconvenience and frustration” caused by the new system.

In an emailed response to councillors, head of environment for Kingston Council Rachel Lewis said they had “envisaged a user-friendly system broadly similar to that previously in operation” but admitted the impact on residents was “underestimated”.

Leader of Kingston Liberal Democrats Liz Green said: “It's unbelievable that the council has had to spend over £11,000 sending out first-class letters to apologise over this farce on changing residents’ parking permits and visitor scratch cards.

“If they'd thought about it in advance, the cost of writing to everyone affected would have been a fraction of this.

“We're totally in favour of bringing systems into the 21st Century, but we won't stand for shoddy treatment of Kingston residents.”

Ms Lewis acknowledged in the letter that residents were having trouble with the new system and wrote: “In particular, we are aware that there are concerns around visitor vouchers.

“If you have existing paper ones you can still use these.

“For both existing resident permits and visitor vouchers, you don’t need to do anything right now until either your permit needs to be renewed or you need more vouchers.”

Ms Lewis said the council had “already made some changes to [its] plans to try to minimise” problems for residents and promised “all residents regardless of whether they do or do not have access to the internet can continue to access the parking service”.

A complicated system and unwarranted tickets 

Mother and midwifery student Chloe Cox first “rejoiced” when she heard about the change to permits because she felt it would make the process easier.

However, she ended up feeling the opposite of joy.

Since the changeover Ms Cox, 26, has received three parking tickets, two on her own car, and one on a visitor’s car. Both vehicles had valid parking permits.

She called the council several times to complain and was told a man called Andrew would call her back.

Ms Cox said: “Well I'm afraid to say that I am still waiting for the infamous 'Andrew' to call me back.”

The 26-year-old, who said she feels “really angry” and may end up seeking legal advice, added: “We pay a lot of money in council tax every year and pay a lot to have parking permits, so to get that response (or lack of response I should say) from somewhere that is meant to be representative of its residents is pretty disgusting to be honest.”

Another resident Marian Blevin had put her problems with the system down to her age.

She said: “We thought it was us being ‘old’ and ‘non- digital’ until a neighbour about the same age as our kids was also having trouble.”

Kevin Khanpoor, who ended up paying twice due to a fault in the system, described it as “horrible and slow”.

However, Huw Marks said: “I've just renewed the annual permit and it went like clockwork.

“The daily ones look a touch more complex and I am sure there will be teething problems and issues of accessibility but the benefits long term are obvious.”

A petition launched by the Kingston Liberal Democrats to ‘keep paper parking permits’ has gained nearly 900 signatures.

Residents voiced their anger on the petition, with many saying they had not been informed.

Christopher Kent said: “What change? Absolutely no communication whatsoever.”

Deborah Pratt said: “I had to renew my parking permit and the information on the website was very difficult to follow.

“Despite having all my information for my paper permits I still had to scan in lots of documents to prove residency ID and ownership of the vehicle, such a waste of time.”

A spokeswoman for Kingston Council confirmed the cost of the letter.

She said: “The council realised that some of the information about the new parking permit system was unclear.

“We wanted to communicate these changes quickly and directly to all those residents living in controlled parking zones which is about 20,000 households.”