Appeal against blue badge charges failsBy Tim Harris
February 21, 2013
AN appeal to put a stop to charging disabled drivers to park in Aldershot and Farnborough has failed.
Rushmoor Borough Council’s environment panel threw out a request to review the controversial blue badge parking scheme on Tuesday, February 19.
The changes to the scheme were introduced last April, meaning disabled residents had to pay full fees to use the car parks if they were not automatically entitled to a badge. Before this no blue badge holder had to pay.
Last December, the council’s cabinet approved the continuation of the scheme. This decision was “called in” by seven Rushmoor borough councillors – Keith Dibble, Alex Crawford, Jennifer Evans, Mike Roberts, Frank Rust, Barry Jones and Steve Smith – which means they asked for the decision to be reviewed before it was implemented.
The councillors deemed the scheme ‘discriminatory’ and the call-in request was billed to take place last month, but the meeting had to be cancelled because of snowy weather.
Automatic blue badge holders tend to have more severe disabilities and their badges are issued by the county council. Non-automatic blue badges are issued at the discretion of district authorities.
Addressing the environment panel this week, Cllr Smith said: “I spoke against charges for blue badge holders when it originally came in. My position hasn’t changed, if anything it as hardened. I consider the whole concept of discrimination between blue badge holders to be unfair and unjust. I am still totally against the charge.
“If you are deemed to require a blue badge surely that should be it. The degree of disability should not even come into the equation.”
Cllr Dibble said not only was the scheme unfair and discriminatory, but he also suggested it was confusing, brought in little revenue for the council and did not stop abuse, which was the council’s primary argument for introducing the blue badge charge.
The council’s head of community, Peter Amies, reiterated the reasons why charging disabled drivers to park was necessary. “The aim was to help free up disabled bays by stopping abuse,” he said. “It was certainly not a way of increasing the revenue for the council.
“The public consultation received general support from the majority of responses, including disabled and elderly residents. The trial period has proved there has been improvements around the levels and perceptions of abuse, with these reducing.”
Roland Dibbs, deputy leader of the council backed the scheme, saying: “I do not think it is unfair and I do not think it is discriminatory. I cannot get my head around why you would say it is unfair that those who receive discretionary blue badges should have to pay. The fact they have a disability does not mean they are financially disadvantaged.
“This scheme originated because both myself and the parking manager had received approaches from disabled persons to say we should be charging to reduce the abuse of disabled parking schemes – they were suggesting that all blue badge holders should pay.”
Cllr Dibble argued it was not about the ability to pay, but about the fact that driving could often be the only mode of transport for some disabled residents.
The signage for the blue badge scheme was brought under scrutiny, and while it was decided the appeal against the continuation of the scheme would be ignored, the signs will be closely looked at during the next review of the scheme.
The current Rushmoor blue badge scheme will run until June, when it will be reviewed again.