HUNDREDS of elderly people in Lewisham are being left lonely and trapped in their own homes due to the council's new online parking permit system.
The move - which is saving the council £500,000 per year - has been branded a "nightmare" and slammed for being rolled out without public consultation.
Residents must now apply for parking permits online or call an expensive number in a complicated process which ignores the vulnerable and cash-strapped, according to a council opposition leader.
Partially-sighted Edna Lunt, 80, of Nelgarde Road, Catford, who was left without a carer for 12 days when the change first happened in August, told News Shopper: "I was going absolutely mad.
"I can’t see so I have got to get someone else to do it.
"I have spoken to older people that have been in dire difficulties over it.”
Mrs Lunt says elderly people fear visitors will be put off in case they get a parking ticket under the new system.
She said: "They say nobody will come round to their house anymore. "Loneliness - that is the killer for older people."
Mrs Lunt was given a year’s free parking from the council after contacting News Shopper about her situation, but says she now feels "guilty" about other elderly people who are suffering.
Lewisham Lib Dems leader Councillor Chris Maines, who put forward a rejected motion to bring back cash payment for permits in post offices and shops, said: "This particularly affects elderly people.
"Because it isn’t just those that are stuck in their homes, but those dependent on family and friends coming to do their shopping and just popping in for a cup of tea.
"It isn’t just the effort of getting parking permits, but they have been excluded from information and don’t know what to do.
"It is difficult for people and intimidating."
He also hit out at the expensive 0845 number residents can use to now apply for permit information and said the cost and difficulties excluded many people.
He added: "This Labour council seem totally out of touch with how most Lewisham residents act and do financial business."
Psychologist Enomwoyi Damali, 50, is frustrated after being clobbered with a parking ticket despite having a valid permit which she applied for online.
The mother-of-four says she made a slight error online with her registration number but was told her permit was valid before being hit with the fine.
She told News Shopper: "It has been an absolute nightmare.
"Some people like to deal with staff face-to-face.
"I made an error with the online renewal.
"Trying to cancel this and start again led to me being locked out of the system.
"I was thinking ‘what about people not confident on the computer, or people with a learning difficulty?’"
She has put a handwritten note on her dashboard informing parking wardens she has a valid permit and has had to make expensive phone calls to appeal the fine.
She said: "I am still feeling anxious in the mean time.
"Nobody consulted us about this.
"This new system is full of gaping holes and fatal flaws."
Lewisham Council response
A Lewisham Council spokeswoman said: “The council is having to make some very difficult decisions about service delivery as a result of government cuts to funding.
“It is very important that the council seeks to take advantage of new technology where we can to reduce our costs and our burden on our taxpayers.
“All parking services are now available online which means the service is accessible to everyone 24/7.
“For customers who are unable to or feel less confident in accessing the online service they can call a local rate 0845 telephone number and trained staff will assist them with their first application.
'Following feedback from customers we are looking into ways in which residents can pay for parking permits by cash in person."