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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 November 2006, 13:02 GMT
'Half' of disabled badges illegal
A parking bay for disabled drivers
The badges give drivers free and unlimited parking
Up to half of all disabled parking badges in London are being used illegally, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

It is estimated that badges are now changing hands on the black market for up to 500.

A recent crackdown by spending watchdog the Audit Commission led to nearly 5,500 badges being cancelled in Manchester, Merseyside and London.

The badges allow free and unlimited parking in pay and display bays.

The trouble is, the system has just grown over the years without a lot of thought to the security implications
Mobilise

They also allow parking for up to three hours on yellow lines and, in London, holders are exempt from the congestion charge.

The badges do not carry a car registration number and have a photograph only on the back, so they can easily be transferred between vehicles and drivers.

Douglas Campbell, of the disabled drivers' charity Mobilise, has called for tougher enforcement.

"The trouble is, the system has just grown over the years without a lot of thought to the security implications," he told BBC News.

"The people who are behind the screen - the people who actually operate it - are largely probably not aware of the huge problems that are being incurred."

Undercover

In May the Audit Commission revealed nearly 5,500 blue badges in London, Merseyside and Manchester were cancelled after it was discovered they were being used after the holder had died.

Its report also found that a number of blue badges had been reissued in London after the people entitled to them had died.

They included four badges in Wandsworth, which had been used 347 times to avoid paying the congestion charge, ten in Barnet, used 80 times, and two in Camden, used 227 times.

Charges were brought against a solicitor, a bank employee and a care home manager.

Undercover surveillance

According to the Audit Commission badges are now changing hands for around 500 on the black market and the LGA says it believes up to half of the badges in London are being used illegally.

The abuse is widespread in many UK cities and Manchester City Council is so concerned it is now using undercover surveillance to catch badge-abusers.

Head of street management Martin Lee said it was difficult for parking attendants to check if badges were being used illegally.

"Our parking attendants who have beats within the city centre reported to us that, in certain areas, there is a high preponderance of disabled badges.

"It's difficult to say how many are legitimate and how many are not because, obviously, any disabled badge holder from anywhere in the country can come and park in Manchester."


Are you a disabled driver? Have you been affected by the abuse of parking badges?

Your comments:

My wife is disabled, and has a 'Parking Card'. Her name and photo are on one side, Expiry date and Serial number on the other. I cannot determine which is "front" or "back" - there's no indication - but a note on the 'name and photo' side says "When in use, the card is to be displayed at the front of the vehicle in such a way that the front of the card is clearly visible for checking purposes". So long as the design of the card has been done in such an incompetent manner, it comes as no surprise that they can be used fraudulently!
Douglas Rolph, Dereham, Norfolk, England

My husband has been in a wheelchair for 23 years and we have seen the disabled badge parking scheme go from bad to worse in that time. One solution would be to have a medical review of all the badges currently issued, OK, it would take some time but you would know who genuinely needed one and simply cancel all others. My husband and I often challenge people who don't appear to be disabled and, although we do get abuse, we also get some very embarrassed reactions - delicious to see when you are in the middle of a supermarket car park!
Irene, St Andrews, Scotland

I am partial paraplegic so really do need the concession. It really galls me when I see disabled bays being taken up by perfectly healthy people - even if they have (for instance) a perfect right to have a badge because of a disabled relative. They leave the relative in the car and they themselves, while enjoying perfect health, jog off to do their shopping.
Mr Laycock, Castle Douglas, Scotland

My car has been broken into twice in the last 18 months, and my Blue Badge stolen on both occasions. Just so some criminal can make 500 off some other criminal.
Lisa Egan, London, UK

I have a disabled son and we hold a disabled badge for his use. It's shocking to see the amount of people abusing disabled badges and disabled parking areas. Disabled parking is a godsend to people like us who really need them and who have very poor mobility, not to mention the costs of parking, especially when we spend many hours in hospital. I really do believe that blue badges should be frequently checked, all too many times we have seen the badges being abused by those who are obviously very able bodied.
Mrs Sarah Hext, Swindon, Wiltshire

I have recently been issued with a Blue Badge for the first time and have now witnessed for myself how these are being abused. It is quite common for me to be unable to use dedicated disabled spaces due to them being occupied by all and sundry who just happen to have access to a badge, from whatever source. The vehicles I encounter most in such situations are invariably 4x4s and German executive cars driven by housewives with young children in tow. One point that does need clarifying is that the badges do have a photograph of the holder on them but it is the other side of the badge that needs to be displayed on the dashboard.
Simon, Enfield, United Kingdom

I am not a disabled badge holder but both my parents and in-laws are. Whenever I visit them I drive them to wherever they go, they use their passes in my car to enable me to find a space closer to the shops or other places we visit. It would severely restrict them if the passes were limited to one car registration as I know other member of my family do the same as me. So here we have another proposal to cover up more government mistakes. They need some basic admin training!
ADJ, Portsmouth, UK

The technology is available to fit all the disabled badges with a bar code, containing the persons name and vehicle no. The Meter Maid then scans the badge and issues the large fine if it is not correct. Failure to pay, gets the vehicle taken off the list, and the car towed away. No-one can disagree with that for rogues. If the badge is being correctly used, there is no reason to issue penalties.
Roger J Canton, UK and Germany

As a driver/carer for a disabled person, I see a lot of people abusing disabled parking spaces without the blue badges, i.e. parking in a bay with hazards on - hazards are meant to only be used when the vehicle has broken down not for the odd parking for loading/unloading but this is done everywhere on pavements illegally too, making it impossible to pass the pavement. This should be more enforced as it is preventing vulnerable people on public roads, generally though it does seem to be 4x4 car types that do these things more often. So add this to this new league of fraudsters, it must certainly be a high number of people disabling disabled persons more.
Paul Ebbens, East Dereham, England

I live in Bristol and I am wheelchair bound. The scheme here - you have to supply a photo which goes on your Blue Badge and this has been the case for sometime. I have recently just updated my badge and the form that has to be completed has to be signed by your doctor.
Andy Dubreuil, Bristol

I am fortunate not to be a disabled driver but I find it absolutely disgraceful to see drivers stopping in disabled spaces and getting out to shop with no sign of a physical disability. I think it shows utter contempt for your fellow man or woman and shows just how lazy our society is becoming when people who are fortunate to be completely able bodied are willing to add to the struggles a disabled person may face just for the sake of a few pounds or a few yards less to walk.
B Smith, Manchester

I have on many occasions in Aberdeen - particularly in hospital grounds - seen disabled badges being used when the holder is not in the vehicle as either driver or passenger.
George S Cumming, Aberdeen, Scotland




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