Twenty Blue Badges have been retained in Bridgend County Borough as part of a crackdown against fraudulent abuse of the scheme.
Working in partnership with a specialist team from Portsmouth City Council, enforcement work carried out by Bridgend County Borough Council resulted in 68 interventions, 15 of which were serious enough for fixed penalties to be issued, with further action under consideration.
Hundreds of badges were checked and officers were able to provide drivers with advice and clarification over the correct use of the scheme, but the council is warning that abuse of the service will not be tolerated.
The majority of the misuse involved people using someone else’s badge dishonestly to avoid paying for parking.
In one case, someone was using a badge that had already been reported as lost or stolen, and in another, a relative was misusing a Blue Badge despite the fact that the eligible badge holder was deceased.
By law, Blue Badges can only be displayed in a vehicle if the badge holder is present in the car when it arrives or parks. It cannot be borrowed or used if they are not in the vehicle, even if someone is running an errand on the badge holder’s behalf.
Misuse of a Blue Badge is subject to a penalty on conviction of up to £1,000, although this can potentially increase to more than £5,000 in cases of fraud.
Deputy Leader, Cllr Hywel Williams said:
“While this exercise was intended to gauge levels of misuse, it has provided an excellent opportunity for engaging with drivers across the county borough, and to provide eligible badge holders with advice and education.
“It is disappointing to see such abuse of blue badges in our area, but I hope this sends out a strong message to those who seek to misuse them.”
The Leader, Cllr Huw David added:
“Portsmouth City Council provided the benefit of their experience to help tackle this problem, and the checks were carried out across Bridgend County Borough over a two-day period.
“Abuse of the scheme reduces the number of spaces that are available for genuine Blue Badge holders to use, and impacts upon the most vulnerable members of the community.”
Simon Green, Chair of the Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People, said:
“Blue Badges are essential to many and are not a luxury.
“A Blue Badge can be a necessity for getting to work, to go shopping, attend appointments or meeting friends socially as many need to park closer to buildings. As a wheelchair user myself, I need the extra space to get out of my car.
“If people abuse the system, fraudulently use a badge or misuse a family member’s badge, they are taking a disabled parking spot away from someone who may need it and are preventing others from going about their daily business.
“While I continue to campaign to keep Blue Badge parking free in council-owned car parks and to have more accessible spaces, I think a zero tolerance needs to be taken against anyone who uses a space illegally, and fully support if Bridgend County Borough Council are hard on them.”
image credit: Wales Online