Crackdown targets Blue Badge fraudsters

Criminals aren’t known for their high moral standards, but surely committing Blue Badge fraud is a particular low point. The Blue Badge scheme grants parking concessions to more 2.5 million disabled people. A Blue Badge holder can, for example, park for free at an on-street parking meter.
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But the fraudsters don’t seem to care about the genuinely disabled.

Rocketing prosecutions

Blue badge fraud prosecutions have doubled over three years, according to figures from the Local Government Association (LGA). There were 686 successful council prosecutions last year, up from 358 in 2010-11. Manchester City Council was particularly successful, achieving a 100% conviction rate, with more than 500 prosecutions over the last five years.

Shameless criminality

The criminals are really quite shameless. Some were caught using a dead relative’s badge or leaving a disabled person at home to get free parking while shopping or at work. As Robert Goodwill, transport minister, says: “Pretending to be disabled to dodge parking fees and restrictions is plain shameful and prevents those who have genuine need for Blue Badge from getting to the parking spots they need.”

Fraud crackdown

The increase in prosecutions is partly down to a crack down on parking fraud using new powers that were granted in 2011. It is now easier for councils to seize fake badges or badges that are being misused. Handwritten badges are also being replaced by electronic badges that are harder to alter and forge. Some local authorities have even set up special enforcement teams to tackle the fraud.

Bogus websites

The Department for Transport is also warning of websites that charge people to apply for a Blue Badge, when it is free to apply from a local authority or via www.gov.uk So severe is the problem that a cross government working group led by the Cabinet Office Government Digital Service has been set up to investigate misleading websites.

Blue Badge details

The Blue Badge is available only to eligible disabled people. Some people are automatically eligible, such as those who are registered blind. Others might have to undergo an independent mobility assessment. If an application is successful, the council charges an administration fee of up to £10 for the badge, but there is no application fee.

Local rules

Blue Badges are administered by the local council, which can provide information on the local parking rules. The scheme is nationwide, though it does not operate in some town centres and certain London boroughs, where parking is already limited. Blue Badge holders might also be eligible for further concessions. London residents, for example, are exempt from the Congestion Charge.

Misuse penalties

Always make sure you understand the rules, or you could end up in trouble. The local authority can cancel or take away your badge if you are found guilty of misuse, whether unwitting or not. You could also be fined up to £1,000. You can find out if you are eligible and apply for a Blue Badge by contacting your local authority via the website www.gov.uk Alternatively, you can call the Blue Badge initial enquiry support service on 0844 463 0213.
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