WILTSHIRE Council deputy leader John Thomson is unrepentant after the authority was branded the worst culprit in the country for short changing motorists who use its car parks.

A nationwide survey has revealed that Wiltshire made an extra £730,000 from car park fees over three years because none of its machines gives change.

The latest figures for 2012/13 saw Wiltshire still top with a £250,000 over-vend. Tunbridge Wells was second, making an extra £94,000, followed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council in Suffolk, which made £83,000.

A freedom of information request by the Daily Mirror tried to survey all 348 local authorities in England and Wales but only 79 responded.

Mr Thomson, the cabinet member for highways, said this showed the investigation was flawed and he pointed to the fact that most of the councils that responded were small district councils with far fewer car parks than Wiltshire.

He said: “If you look at the figures from a percentage point of view, we are not so different.”

He said it would cost Wiltshire £2.5m to replace the machines with ones that give change.

They would also cost an extra £633,000 to run, as they would have to be serviced several times a day to make sure they had the right change available.

He said: “If we pay out this sort of money so we can give motorists change, we will have to take it away from somewhere else such as subsidies for buses.”

Now two independent councillors have called for the return of the £730,000 in over-paid charges.

Melksham Without North’s Terry Chivers said: “We can’t pay this money back to the users of the car parks, but we can pay it back to the community in general.

“We are suggesting this money be split between all the area boards and they can give it back to the community in the form of grants to local organisations.”

Along with Trowbridge Grove councillor Jeff Osborn, he has proposed a motion for the refund.

Motoring organisation the AA was unimpressed by the excuses. Spokesman Luke Bosdet said: “One thing that really irritates drivers is that they have to have the exact change.

“Some car parks provide options to pay by credit card over the phone, but these leave older, maybe more vulnerable, motorists open to this overcharging scandal.

“These older drivers, and the less well-off, are having to dig into their pockets to give councils money they don’t deserve.”

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Overcharging motorists by using machines that don’t give change is disgraceful behaviour.

“Council officials need to remember that they are supposed to be serving local residents.”