Comment by Bucks Free Press Head of Content Andrew Colley:

The leadership of Wycombe District Council must hold residents and our loyal readers in absolute contempt.

Throughout the changeover to a disastrous camera-operated car park system (ANPR), the authority made major mistakes, attempted to cover up the truth and lost more than a million pounds.

And now taxpayers are paying the price for their incompetence.

If bosses of a private company had overseen such a shambles, deciding to replace a profitable and fair scheme with a system which made no money and only succeeded in causing confusion – only to then ignore evidence and reason when the failings were pointed out – they would be sacked.

Of course, calls have been made for WDC’s politicians to resign. Some changes have been made, but as this newspaper now reveals the full extent of the damage caused by their dreadful decisions, surely it’s time for those at the top to stand up for their mistakes. They should do the honourable thing and walk.

Many have questions to answer. Former car parking boss, councillor Jean Teasdale, appears to have ultimately paid the price.

She was ousted from the cabinet apparently in a move the Conservative wanted in the run up to the recent Bucks County Council election – but maybe she was just falling on her sword for the sake of other leaders who have kept their jobs.

The council opted for a tried and tested council policy instead: ignore it and hope it goes away.

In early 2016, I started an investigation into the council’s “hi-tech” system, testing High Wycombe’s main car parks out by leaving without paying for parking.

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As predicted, a fine never came through the door, proving our theory that the council had adopted a £680,000 scheme which was useless – it did not have government approval and they had no ability or jurisdiction to send out fines.

What began as a bid to save money by scrapping a manned pay-and-display scheme transpired into a disastrous choice – one which cost the council (sorry, taxpayer) seven figures.

The loophole was exploited over and over again and people knew they could get away with it.

Our investigation exposed this and should have been used as the springboard for change – it was there plain and simple, in black and white: the system did not work.

The council then should have admitted their mistakes and quickly fixed it. But no, in an attempt to protect their own positions they argued against our case and continued to cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds.

A year later they finally got rid of the ANPR system, reverting back to pay and display in the majority of the district’s car parks.

What we have seen is a massive increase of fines being collected. The money raised in three months almost equals the total from two years.

Just imagine what that lost money could have been used on: it could have been put towards improving our town centre, projects like reopening the river, maybe council tax wouldn’t have gone up, or perhaps even some new toilets on The Rye.

Mistakes can be made, but the inability to admit to them and make the changes necessary shows that residents were not put first.

This council acted outside of its remit and should face up to the consequences. It’s better late than never.