Saturday, 31 December 2016

Councils Failed To Prosecute Over Blue Badge Fraudsters

Blue Badge

Drivers who misuse blue badges for the disabled are left unpunished by 40% of councils in England, according to the Department for Transport report shows.

Blue badges entitle drivers to free parking in pay and display bays and allow them to park in disabled zones.

Analysis by the Press Association showed that 61 out of 152 local authorities do not have a penalty policy for the dishonest use of badges.

The disability charity Scope said it was a "staggering" number.

The penalty for misuse of the badges is stiff, according to the RAC Foundation, with fines of up to £1,000.

"But that is no deterrent if councils have no policies for prosecutions," the foundation's direction of motoring research Steve Gooding said.

He added: "Abuse of the system creates huge levels of ill feeling and risks bringing into disrepute the whole scheme, which is invaluable for those who really need it."

In 2015, there were 2.39 million blue badge holders in England, official figures show.

Councils in England took legal action against 896 people for abuse of blue badges in the year to the end of March 2016, according to the Department for Transport (DfT).

Almost all of the cases involved drivers using another person's blue badge.

James Taylor, Scope's head of policy, said councils have a duty to disabled people and to taxpayers to tackle the issue.

He said: "Many disabled people rely heavily on their blue badges to live independently and we need to crack down on misuse of the system wherever possible.

"It appears that some councils take their work to weed out those who are not disabled more seriously than others."

Earlier this year, the Local Government Association (LGA) revealed that the number of blue badges stolen in England had trebled in three years.

The LGA said there were 2,056 cases of theft recorded in 2015 compared with 1,756 in 2014 and 656 in 2013.

However, the LGA disputed the accuracy of the DfT's report on councils' lack of policies, saying that some councils listed as not having a policy for prosecuting abuse of the scheme do have reporting mechanisms for such incidents.

A spokesman for the LGA said: "Councils take blue badge fraud seriously and are working hard to combat it.

"Gathering evidence and mounting a prosecution can be time-consuming and expensive, but councils know their areas and are best placed to decide the most effective way to tackle it."



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