BRADFORD Council had to divert officers from tackling Blue Badge abuse in the District to investigating its own staff.

A report into corporate investigations carried out last year revealed that the number of Blue Badge “action days” carried out by the Council fell from 10 in 2017/18 to zero last year.

This was “due to investigative resources being diverted into an increased number of employee investigations.”

However Bradford Council says that efforts to tackle blue badge abuse have continued despite the drop off in action days.

And at a meeting of the Council’s Governance & Audit Committee yesterday members were told there have already been seven action days since April, with another three planned before Christmas.

The committee heard that last year’s lack of Blue Badge action days was a “blip.”

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The report reveals that “a number of anonymous whistleblowing complaints” led to the number of Council employees investigated rose from 18 in 2017/18 to 40 in 2018/19.

These investigations led to eight staff being dismissed or resigning and 18 receiving “sanctions” such as a caution or warning. No staff were prosecuted.

The report says many of the investigations relate to “one service area.”

In the same period 166 citizens were investigated, leading to 21 prosecutions and 99 other sanctions.

After hearing of the report, Emerson Walgrove, Chair of Bradford Disabled People’s Forum, said: “It is disappointing that they have not carried out ‘action days’ in 2018/19.

“But, it is even more shocking that they have diverted funding and resources for combating Blue Badge fraud into an increased number of employee investigations in one service area.

“Surely, while it is right to investigations employee fraud, they should not be using the funds or resource that may have been allocated for Blue Badge fraud investigations”

The Telegraph & Argus asked Bradford Council about the drop in Blue Badge investigations, and the rise in employee investigations.

A Bradford Council spokesperson responded: “Enforcement against people who abuse blue badges has not stopped. On the contrary, last year 112 investigations were carried out resulting in 11 prosecutions and 95 cautions and warnings.

“Whilst this represented a slight reduction in investigations on previous years, it still accounted for a large proportion of the overall investigation work carried out.

“We have been committed to investigating the misuse and abuse of the Blue Badge scheme for a number of years and in the last three financial years have carried out 480 investigations resulting in 66 prosecutions and 341 cautions and warnings.

“Bradford Council will continue to be committed to tackling the misuse and abuse of Disabled Persons Blue Badges on behalf of genuine users who need those spaces to be able to live their lives. The investigation work carried out by the Council over the last few years, to free up spaces for genuine users, continues to be recognised by both the users themselves and Mobility Groups across the District.”