Government to crack down on disabled parking
The government has announced plans to crack down on disabled parking, with the maximum fee for a blue badge set to rise from £2 to £10.
The changes are described as the most comprehensive for 40 years, and have been welcomed by disabled groups as they also promise to restrict abuse of the system that has seen drivers struggling to find spaces in some areas.
As part of the clampdown, GPs will no longer be able to issue the blue badges that allow disabled drivers free and accessible parking. Instead, wider use will be made of "independent mobility assessments to determine eligibility," said a statement from the Department for Transport.
Explaining the move, a spokesman for the DfT said: "It is quite difficult for some GPs, if they have built up a relationship with a patient over many years, to say no."
The other changes will see the handwritten badge replaced by an electronic one, which is harder to forge, and the introduction of an online application facility to speed up renewals.
Although the rule tightening should see some marginal users miss out on their badges, the scheme is also being widened to include more disabled children under the age of three, as well as disabled armed forces personnel and veterans.
Transport Minister Norman Baker said:
"The Blue Badge Scheme makes a real difference to millions of disabled people every day. However, it is clear that it is in real need of modernisation after forty years without major reform.
"Such are the high levels of fraud in the current system that 50 percent of Blue Badge holders now find it difficult to get a parking space and Blue Badge fraud is estimated to cost £46m a year.
"The changes I am announcing will crack down on Blue Badge misuse, modernise the system and extend eligibility to other groups such as more disabled children under three and severely disabled war veterans and service personnel."
Disabled spokesmen have welcomed the news, with Dai Powell, Chair of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) saying: "These proposals can bring us one step nearer to a fairer and more consistently applied scheme. DPTAC hope to continue working closely with the Department as it implements these measures to ensure they lead to better outcomes for disabled people."