Disabled drivers are being forced to abandon their journeys due to the “shocking” illegal misuse of designated parking spots by inconsiderate motorists who have been fined almost £55,000 in the last three years, an investigation by The Yorkshire Post has revealed.
Charities have said the “appalling” culture of misuse of both the Blue Badge scheme and designated disabled parking spaces was making life “incredibly tough” for disabled people across Yorkshire leading to increasing social isolation – and have called on councils and police for a crackdown because they say it is going unchecked in many parts of the region.
Blue Badge abuse: Thousands risk conviction and fines for a parking spot
Figures released to The Yorkshire Post under the Freedom of Information Act show vast differences in how the region’s local authorities enforce Blue Badge and disabled parking space misuse.
While some councils, such as Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford and Kirklees, are actively pursuing those who abuse the system, large parts of North Yorkshire are going unchecked. Harrogate Council, which is partly responsible for enforcement on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council, in Harrogate, Craven and Selby, does not investigate cases of fraudulent use and did not issue a single fine for Blue Badge misuse over the period.
Across the region, 1,980 investigations into Blue Badge misuse or fraud took place from 2015 to 2017, with 295 badges seized either permanently or temporarily in this time.
The Blue Badge scheme allows drivers or passengers with certain disabilities a range of on-street parking concessions, exemptions from paying in some car parks and the use of designated parking zones.
Examples of misuse include a family member or carer using the Blue Badge when the badge holder was not present, using a stolen badge, or even, such as in one case prosecuted in Rotherham last month, using a deceased relatives’ badge.
During the period, 653 court convictions were made for misuse of a Blue Badge, and local authorities issued 1,279 fines. However, enforcement for misuse was dwarfed by penalty notices enforced for the incorrect use of a disabled parking space, which came to 54,183.
well be causing a disabled person to abandon their journey and go home, which may well increase the sense of social isolation that many disabled people report.
“It is totally socially unacceptable to misuse an accessible parking bay, or indeed a blue badge.”
Richard Lane, head of communications at disability charity Scope, said while it was “good news” that some Yorkshire councils are punishing Blue Badge abusers, “too many councils” don’t take the issue seriously enough.
“It’s appalling that people are stealing Blue Badges, misusing them and illegally using disabled parking spaces,” he said. “This behaviour can make life incredibly tough for disabled people, who rely on their Blue Badge to be part of the local community and contribute to their local economy.
“The police and council need to continue to ensure they are serving their disabled residents by cracking down on this activity.”
Chief executive of Disabled Motoring UK, Graham Footer, said the figures made for “shocking reading”.
“There are councils across the country - including in Yorkshire - that are taking no enforcement action whatsoever. It’s very frustrating for the members we represent, who are the ones that suffer as a consequence. If there is no enforcement in a town, the word quickly gets round, and more people misuse bays and Blue Badges, for the sheer convenience, knowing they won’t get caught out.
“Disabled motorists don’t have the option to park anywhere else. If they can’t park in a bay they have nowhere to go.”