Councils failing to tackle blue badge abuse as number of thefts rise
In a report published at the end of last year, it has been revealed there has been a significant rise in blue badge theft and worryingly most councils are failing to prosecute motorists for misusing these permits.
Of the 152 English local authorities surveyed, 94 (62%) did not pursue anyone for abusing the blue badge scheme. Similar research conducted two years ago found 40% of councils were failing to clamp down on this issue suggesting blue badge abuse is getting worse. Sadly, almost every case involving the 1,215 prosecutions that were investigated last year involved drivers using someone else’s blue badge. Shockingly, the number of blue badges reportedly stolen has increased by 45% in the past year.
Phil Talbot of disability charity Scope said; “Stealing blue badges isn’t a crime without consequences. They are a vital lifeline for those who genuinely need them.”
Blue badges are available to adults who are disabled or have a health condition that affects their mobility (or for those who care for a child with these conditions). The scheme allows blue badge holders to park free of charge in pay and display bays and for up to three hours on yellow lines. Blue badge holders driving in London are also exempt from the congestion charge. Blue badges are used by approximately 2.4 million disabled people in England. Those who are convicted of misusing a blue badge face fines of up to £1,000.
The reasons for the disparity in convictions and prosecutions from councils can be due to the different levels of pressure on parking in the area but is also as a result of councils’ tight budgets. Following various spending cuts, councils are finding their available budgets are significantly lower than in previous years. Councils have tough decisions to make when it comes to effectively allocating their budgets every year. This, coupled with the time-consuming and expensive nature of pursuing these perpetrators, sadly leads to many going unchallenged.
Last year, the blue badge scheme was adapted to allow people with hidden disabilities to be eligible for blue badges. These changes mean people with conditions such as autism and dementia could be entitled to parking permits. Approximately 75% of blue badge holders say they would go out less frequently if they did not have their blue badge.