Four local authorities account for majority of blue badge misuse prosecutions

More than half of prosecutions for misuse of disabled parking badges are being brought by just four local authorities, according to new analysis.

Department for Transport (DfT) figures show councils in England took legal action against 698 people for abusing the blue badge system in 12 months.

Analysis of the data by the PA news agency found that 374 of the prosecutions (54%) were carried out by the local authorities of Lambeth (119), Birmingham (93), Hammersmith and Fulham (92) and Bromley (70).

The vast majority of prosecutions (97%) were targeted at people who used someone else’s blue badge.

The figures relate to the year to the end of March 2021.

Tom Marsland, policy manager at disability equality charity Scope, said: “It’s appalling that year after year blue badge crime seems to be flying under the radar. This has been going on for too long.

“Misusing a blue badge could mean you’re taking the parking space of a disabled person who truly needs it.

“Laws around blue badge misuse are pointless if they aren’t enforced.”

People found guilty of misusing blue badges can be fined up to £1,000.

But 100 of the 140 councils which provided data to the DfT for the 12-month period did not prosecute anyone for blue badge misuse.

AA president Edmund King said: “It is shocking that more than half of Blue Badge prosecutions come from less than a handful of local authorities, as this indicates that the majority of local authorities are not taking enforcement seriously.

“Ultimately the blame lies with the fraudulent drivers who are abusing the system.”

Around 2.4 million valid blue badges are held in England.

They help people with disabilities or health conditions access shops and services by enabling them to park closer to their destination.

The eligibility criteria was extended in 2019 to include people with non-visible disabilities such as Parkinson’s, dementia and epilepsy.

Depending on the location, blue badges often enable holders to park free of charge in pay-and-display bays and for up to three hours on single and double yellow lines.

In London, they exempt holders from having to pay the congestion charge.

Lambeth Council’s cabinet member for sustainable Lambeth and clean air Rezina Chowdhury said the borough was the first in London to “really address the issue of blue badge fraud” by establishing a dedicated investigation team in 2008.

The local authority deploys specially trained officers in plain clothes to conduct spot checks on blue badges being used.

Ms Chowdhury went on: “We have taken a zero tolerance approach and are proactive in tackling the problem.”

David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association – which represents councils in England and Wales, said: “Despite limited resources, councils continue to work hard to crack down on this growing crime and to learn from best practice.

“Before taking matters to court, councils will always consider whether there is sufficient evidence for there to be a reasonable prospect of conviction and will also consider if it is in the public interest.”