City of York Council failed to fully explain how its digital parking permit scheme works with local business owners and failed to consult with trade organizations before implementing it, a local government report has found.

The Local Government and Social Security Ombudsman (LGSCO) launched an investigation after a guest house owner complained about a policy introduced by the council in September 2021 which means permits are now only issued and stored online.

She said the system was not flexible and not suitable for guesthouses to search for digital parking permits and enter vehicle registration details for guests and international visitors.

The council issued a Parking Penalty Notice (PCN) to a resident of her guest house who unexpectedly arrived and checked in without the owners on site in February.

There was confusion about what time of day to check-in, and a visitor left a negative review of the guest house online. The hostess paid the fine for her buyer.

The council initially refused to cancel the PCN despite the guesthouse owner’s appeals, but canceled and reinstated it after the woman complained to LGSCO.

He then apologized for the confusion and for not informing her of the application time. They specified that no coercive measures will be taken from 21:00 to 08:00.

During LGSCO’s investigation into the complaint, the council said it had not specifically consulted with business owners about the introduction of the online parking system, but said the public had had an opportunity to have their say in 2019 and 2020.

An LGSCO inspector said in the report: “I would have expected the council to have communicated this to trade associations as part of its publicity, given that the digitization of permits is a significant cultural and procedural change.”

During 2021 the council did send letters to guesthouses and businesses explaining the changes to the digital system.

The report added: “It said there had previously been some issues with the online system and it was a cultural change for business owners.

“Council recognized guests may arrive unexpectedly or late at night and have compromised their parking restrictions by not applying parking controls between 9pm and 8am.”

The board also said it would always look at individual or exceptional circumstances and monitor the impact on the business as a whole.

The author of the report said the council had caused the guest house owner “confusion and frustration”, but said they were satisfied the council had rectified the injustice.

“I find no fault with the council for being flexible or implementing the digital parking policy,” the report added.

The rollout of a digital parking permit system has caused problems for some people in York, with some councilors saying a significant number of residents have complained to them about it.

On November 14, this issue will be considered at a meeting of the commission on economy and politics and control of places.