A series of thefts in Wycombe’s car parks is taking its toll, with councillors now admitting their new pay machines will bring in hundreds of thousands of pounds less than they hoped, at a time when they look set to enforce a hefty council tax rise.

In the last year, thieves and vandals have targeted new automatic number plate recognition machines 49 times – stealing £49,000 and contributing to the costly equipment’s predicted failure to bring in £2.8 million this year, the Bucks Free Press can reveal.

When rolling out the new £680,000 scheme across the district in 2014, Wycombe District Council said it would bring in more revenue, but at a time when residents are feeling the pinch it appears that drivers are counting the pennies and not spending them in council car parks.

At the start of the year, the council’s top financial brains estimated they would bring in £2.8m by the end of March 2016, but after a drop in footfall, a rise in vandalism and the demolition of a town centre car park they are now predicting car parks will contribute £498,000 less than predicted this financial year.

Following a series of thefts in the last nine months, WDC have also had to stump up £110,000 in repair costs.

This news comes as top councillors announced they were going to recommend the highest possible tax rise on the average household – generating £328,630 extra across the district – in the wake of large government cutbacks.

Council spokesman Catherine Spalton said: “While we have made savings on overheads, we have not achieved the higher income that we had anticipated.

“The income figure is always dependant on best estimations and assuming that we have the same traffic as previous years.

“We are estimating a shortfall on the forecast income for a variety of reasons, ranging from a nationwide drop in overall footfall, high level of robbery losses, closure of parking spaces for highway works and budget over estimations.”

Last month, 34-year-old Charles Bamber pleaded guilty to ten counts of theft and nine counts of criminal damage.

Other legal proceedings are ongoing.