Blue badge impact on parking revenue questionedBy Tim Harris
December 12, 2012
MORE than six months after a move to charge disabled people in Aldershot and Farnborough to park their cars, the council has suffered a fall in income from parking revenue.
Rushmoor Borough Council introduced changes to the area's blue badge parking scheme in April, which meant disabled motorists have had to pay full fees to use council car parks if they are not automatically entitled to a badge.
The long-debated changes, opposed by residents and some ward councillors, were previously branded as "unquestionably discriminatory".
However, new figures revealed the council has actually seen a drop in the income generated from parking charges in Aldershot and Farnborough.
The figures, obtained by the News & Mail under the Freedom of Information Act, showed the total income between April and September of this year was £1,207,784.
This was less than the £1,261,198 between October 2011 and March 2012, and also for the six months prior to that, which amounted to £1,208,839.
Cove resident Keith Jeffery, who strongly opposed the original plans, suggested blue badge holders may be opting not to use council car parks.
Mr Jeffery suffers from Myasthenia Gravis (MG), which is a neurological disease affecting the voluntary muscles.
He said: “The introduction of a change could have encouraged blue badge holders to park in the roads outside the car park.
“If, as a blue badge holder, I had to pay to park in a council car park, I would take my mobility scooter in the back of the car and park in a nearby road."
Mr Jeffery made it clear that, as a blue badge holder, he did not have to pay for parking. But he is prepared to fight on behalf of others who do have to pay, describing it as "unfair" on them.
When the blue badge changes were approved, Mr Jeffery said: “It is unquestionably discriminatory in as much as it treats under 65s and over 65s with identical disabilities differently – with one group receiving free parking and the other group having to pay.”
Councillor Roland Dibbs, deputy leader of the council, underlined his view that the blue badge parking scheme and the reduction in parking charges income were completely unrelated.
Cllr Dibbs said: “There is no relationship between the two. I think the decrease is because of the way of the world at the moment, people are not going shopping and not spending much money.
“It is a continuing impact of the recession that was, I think there is still a general shortage of money going round. People are not going to car parks as much as usual.”
Mike Bamber, strategic parking manager for the council, added: “I do not think it is anything Rushmoor has or has not done.
“The national economic condition means people will think twice about the cost of travel, as well as parking."
Despite the decrease in income, Mr Bamber said the council was "actually quite robust" financially.
He added: “We are not looking into the abyss, far from it.”