A SENIOR councillor has defended the decision to invest almost £390,000 to switch to cashless car parking machines in Bournemouth.

Between 70 and 100 new meters, which will not take coins, are due to be purchased and installed on behalf of Bournemouth Borough Council before the end of March.

The contract for the work also includes an option to purchase and install a further 10 machines each year, up until 2022.

Bournemouth estimates the total value of the four-year tender, which was awarded to Swindon-based firm Metric Group, is £388,666.

This includes the cost of the machines, installation, commissioning, software and licensing.

Many machines have already been installed as part of the scheme.

As reported by the Daily Echo, Bournemouth decided to carry out the switch after high levels of theft and damage to machines.

Cllr Mike Greene, portfolio holder for transport, said there had also been increasing problems with the reliability of the borough’s 30-year-old coin meters.

“The new machines will make it much easier for people to pay for their parking,” said Cllr Greene.

“It has become more difficult to manage our machines. The number of thefts have gone up and in a lot of cases the machines are out of order more often.

“Fundamentally, people are not carrying coins anymore.

“People either have a phone, smart phone, debit card or credit card on them. The number of people who carry coins is very small in comparison.

“I think it is more than 99 per cent of people carry a card or a phone.

“It is far safer for everyone to pay to park without having the inconvenience of using coins.”

Machines in council-owned car parks which could be redeveloped in the near future will not have their machines replaced, according to Cllr Greene.

It is not yet known if the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council will look to roll out the cashless machines across the unitary authority’s area.

Cllr Greene added: “Cashless machines are more accessible to a great number of people and a modern way of paying.”