#Southend Council to charge disabled residents to renew their Blue Badges
17th November 2011
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Council to charge for Blue Badges from January

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is to start charging disabled residents for Blue Badges in the New Year - to help offset the costs of participating in an improved national scheme.

At present the Council picks up the cost of issuing and renewing badges, but from January 1st residents will incur a £10 administrative contribution for each successful application or renewal.

A proposal to charge for the badges, which will be valid for three years at a time, was approved at a meeting of the Council’s Cabinet earlier this month.

Funds raised will go towards the cost of the Council’s mandatory participation in the Government’s new Blue Badge Improvement Service (BBIS).

The BBIS is aimed at reducing fraud by centralising production of the badges, as well as providing improved accessibility and better customer service.

The National Fraud Authority estimates that abuse of the current Blue Badge system costs the taxpayer around £46million-a-year.

The new charge will also help councils cope with the extra cost of meeting the estimated 27 per cent increase in demand for badges over the next decade due to Britain’s ageing population.

Andrew Moring, Executive Councillor for Corporate Support Services, said the Council had made the decision to charge for the badges reluctantly.

He said: “Sadly the present Blue Badge system is too open to abuse, as is borne out by the shocking figures produced by the National Fraud Authority.

“The majority of Blue Badges are legitimately issued and appropriately used but a significant minority abuse the system and this has forced the Government to act.

“The badges can be used in any vehicle as long as the individual to whom they have been issued is present.

“But sadly it is not uncommon for relatives to use the badges when they shouldn’t do or for people to wrongly claim they have been lost so a second badge is issued.

“It is unfortunate that we now have to levy a charge in order to help cover the additional costs of participating in the new Government scheme, but only successful applicants will have to pay.

“Charging for the badges will generate around £30,000 but the Council will still have to stump up £52,000 to meet the costs of applying for the new badges and distributing them.

“We hope the new scheme will free up parking spaces for legitimate badge users by dissuading those people who currently abuse the system from doing so in future.”

Later this month the Council will be taking part in a day-long operation to raise awareness of Blue Badge abuse.

Officers from the Corporate Fraud Investigation Team, together with Essex Police and the Council’s parking contractors APCOA, will be carrying out spot checks in the town.

Motorists found to be misusing a badge or displaying a counterfeit badge could be liable for a substantial fine and a criminal record in addition to an on-the-spot parking fine.

Anyone in possession of a badge they no longer need or are not entitled to should hand it in or post it to the Civic Centre in Victoria Avenue.

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