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The Minister for Local Government and Communities, Carl Sargeant, has outlined how the Welsh Government is seeking to tackle Blue Badge fraud. Speaking at the Assembly Plenary debate on the UK Government’s proposed Disabled Persons’ Parking Badge Bill the Minister spoke of the need to crack down on those that use the Blue Badge fraudulently. If introduced, the new Bill will bring in new powers in England and Wales which will enable local authorities to cancel Blue Badges that were being dishonestly used.
The new Bill will also give powers to civil enforcement officers, such as traffic wardens, to inspect and remove Blue badges that have been used fraudulently or cancelled. Commenting before the debate, Carl Sargeant, said: “Blue Badge holders are some of the most vulnerable people in society but sadly abuse of the Blue Badge system is a problem. We’ve already taken steps to tackle this issue with the introduction of a new-look free Blue Badge that is harder to forge or copy. Removing fake, forged and expired Blue Badges from circulation will free up parking spaces for legitimate badge holders and allow them to access services and facilities.”
In a recent survey carried out on behalf of the Welsh Government one in ten people in Wales admitted to parking illegally in Blue Badge spaces reserved for disabled motorists. The survey also suggested that a third of respondents said enforcement action should be taken against those that misuse a Blue Badge.
A UK Government report has also pointed to widespread abuse of the system – through forgery of badges, or use of real badges by those not entitled to use them. In April 2012 a new-look Blue Badge that incorporated security features which made it harder to copy, forge and alter as a result of an improved design was introduced in Wales. In Wales there are around 230,000 Blue Badges in use and 2.5 million across the UK.
In south London meanwhile, Lambeth Council has won an Effective Enforcement Award at the 2012 Disabled Motoring UK Awards for its determined effort to stamp out fraudulent misuse of Blue Badge disabled parking rights within the borough.
The Blue Badge Fraud team at Lambeth Council have achieved excellent results by policing the Blue Badge Scheme in the area they cover. In 2011, working in partnership with Croydon Council, they uncovered 138 incidents of Blue Badge fraud. Ten individuals were prosecuted and 75 fraudulent Blue Badge were taken out of circulation.
Pete Robbins, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services in Lambeth, said: “I’m proud that Lambeth is tackling the disgraceful abuse of Blue Badge parking head on. This recognition from a leading disability charity reminds us that the actual victims of Blue Badge fraud are disabled drivers who legitimately hold badges. Our tough action on enforcement sends a clear signal that this blatant misuse of blue badge parking privileges by non-disabled drivers is totally unacceptable.”
Helen Dolphin, Director of Policy and Campaigns, who spent the day with the Blue Badge Fraud Team in Lambeth, said: “On the day I spent with the team, we discovered five badges being misused and four vehicles towed away. It was great to see a local authority tackling this problem and sending out the message that Blue Badge misuse is totally unacceptable.”