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Twice as many drivers abusing disabled blue badges
The number of people caught while misusing or fraudulently using disabled blue badge permits in Bradford has more than doubled, according to new figures obtained by the Telegraph & Argus.
Reports of blue badge fraud or misuse are also on the rise in the district as the number of prosecutions and cautions issued in the last five months is more than double the figure for the whole of last year.
It comes as drivers who abuse the disabled parking system are being warned Bradford Council is cracking down on those whose misuse the permits, often by continuing to use the badge of a dead relative or of a family member who is not in the vehicle at the time. Examples of fraud include using a stolen badge, outright counterfeit, or altering the expiry date on a badge.
Figures released by the Council under Freedom of Information rules show that so far in 2012/13 the authority has prosecuted 20 people and given 29 cautions. This compares to eight prosecutions and 13 cautions for the whole of 2011-12. Figures for the previous year show only one prosecution and no cautions.
Data on the number of warning letters issued over the same period shows a peak of 126 in 2011-12, after a low of eight the previous year, and so far this year 69 such letters have been issued.
In addition the number of reports of possible blue badge fraud have increased rapidly over the past few years with tip-offs coming often from members of the public who believe they have spotted wrong-doing, or from the Council’s parking officers themselves.
In 2010-11 there were 51 referrals, which increased to 158 the following year. However in the first five months of this year alone, there have already been 113 reports of potential abuse of the system.
Harry Singh, counter fraud manager at the Council, told the T&A: “We work very closely with the Council’s parking wardens on fraud awareness and also going out on patrol with them. We’ve been very proactive, firstly in the city centre, then we extended it out to Keighley and Shipley for example, and to the streets around Bradford City football club on match days.”
He stressed that while there are currently 17,400 valid blue badges in circulation in the district, anyone misusing them could be depriving a disabled person of a parking space close to their destination.
The badges are for drivers or passengers with severe mobility problems, and should only be used when the badge holder is actually travelling in the vehicle. They generally allow parking on single or double yellow lines for up to three hours, unless there is a ban on loading or unloading; at on-street parking meters and pay-and-display machines for free; and in disabled parking bays.
The maximum fine for someone convicted of misusing the badge system is £1,000 and the badge could also be removed.
New style badges were introduced nationally in January in a bid to counter fraud. So far 4,180 have been issued in Bradford, and it is expected to be three years before they have completely replaced the old paper ones, which are considered easier to replicate.
Martin Stubbs, the Council’s assistant director of the revenues and benefits service, warned: “At Bradford Council we are committed to stamping out fraud and misuse of blue badges. These badges are for disabled people who need to be able to park close to shops and amenities. Those who misuse the scheme are depriving genuine blue badge holders of a parking space.
“We are continuing to work proactively with our colleagues in parking services to take a proactive stance to tackle fraud and misuse and will continue to prosecute offenders.”
Members of the public can report suspected blue badge fraud and misuse on 0800 169 7451.