‘Time to stop the abuse’ of blue badges

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CAMPAIGNERS have called upon councils across Yorkshire to take tougher action on fraudsters robbing disabled people of easier parking after an investigation by The Yorkshire Post shed light on the scale of blue badge abuse and misuse.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed some of the biggest local authorities are failing to bring blue badge offenders to justice, despite evidence that misuse and fraud is rife throughout the region.

North Yorkshire District Council (NYCC), Barnsley and Hull have failed to prosecute a single person for badge-related fraud over the past two years.

In Sheffield, there have been no prosecutions for five years.

Other local authorities have performed slightly better when it comes to cracking down on offenders, who in some cases have been caught using badges belonging to dead relatives to park where they please.

Rosemary Frazer, community campaigns manager for disability charity Scope, said: “Disabled people rely on their blue badges to get access to shops and town centres.

“Large parts of the public transport system remain inaccessible.

“Councils should crack down as hard as possible on people who fraudulently claim or use blue badges.”

A spokesman for NYCC said its “robust fraud policy” meant it has not had to invalidate any badges over the past three years, but Harrogate-based Disability Action Yorkshire says it witnesses examples of misuse on a regular basis.

Chief executive Jackie Snape said: “I can see how it could be difficult for enforcers on the street to judge whether a badge is being used fraudulently; not every disability is visible.

“However, if fraud is reported and proven then appropriate action should be taken.”

Some councils’ efforts to improve prosecution rates have paid off, however.

During the financial year 2012/2013, Leeds Council detected 179 cases of fraud or abuse but failed to prosecute a single one. During 2013/2014, it secured £30,724 in fines and costs after taking 80 offenders from the 280 detected to court.

In Bradford, there were 27 prosecutions and 56 cautions issued between April last year and this year. Rotherham has also stepped up efforts to crack down on the problem in recent years. Iftikar Al Zindani was slapped with a £100 fine at Rotherham Magistrates’ Court after she pleaded guilty to using her late uncle’s blue badge.

It brings the local authority’s total cases brought through the courts to 58 since 2010. Martin Beard, of Rotherham Council, said they had observations and operations to investigate the issue.

Barnsley Council, which last year alone issued 4,000 badges, has promised to look into introducing an enforcement policy.

Comment: Page 10.