Two out of five councils in England do not prosecute motorists for misusing disabled parking permits, an investigation has found.
Some 61 out of 152 local authorities told the Department for Transport (DfT) they do not have a policy for prosecuting drivers who abuse the blue badge scheme, new analysis of official figures revealed.
The figure was described as “staggering” by James Taylor, head of policy at disability charity Scope, who claimed councils have “a duty” to disabled people and 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.”
Blue badges enable disabled people to park free of charge in pay and display bays and for up to three hours on yellow lines, while in London they exempt holders from having to pay the congestion charge.
Councils in England took legal action against 896 motorists for blue badge misuse in the 12 months to the end of March, according to the DfT.
Almost all cases involved drivers using someone else’s blue badge.
The total was nine per cent down on the previous year’s figure of 985.
Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity RAC Foundation, said: “The penalties for blue badge abuse are stiff – fines of up to £1,000 – but that is no deterrent if councils have no policies for prosecutions.
“This isn’t the biggest crime wave the country faces, but 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.”
A spokesman for the Local Government Association, representing local authorities in England and Wales, disputed the accuracy of the DfT figures, saying some councils listed as not having a policy for prosecuting abuse of the scheme do have reporting mechanisms for such incidents.
He 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.”
A spokesman for the National Police Chiefs’ Council said responsibility for prosecuting blue badge misuse rests with local authorities and police do not engage in penalising offenders.