Wiltshire Council defends free blue badge scheme

Blue Badge
Image caption Wiltshire Council says at present it can issue a badge within a week

Plans to reform the blue badge disabled parking permit scheme have been criticised by Wiltshire Council.

The government says the current scheme needs to be updated because of fraud and abuse, but that local authorities can now charge up to £10 per permit.

Conservative-controlled Wiltshire Council says each badge currently costs £4.84 to administer and it is able to absorb this cost within its budgets.

Deputy leader John Thomson said the new scheme would see each badge cost £15.

Some 24,000 people in Wiltshire have blue badges and, at present, get them issued for free.

Mr Thomson said: "We've been told [by the government] that we can charge £10 for this - but by the time you've taken the cost of making the payment we're not going to get £10.

"We have an extremely efficient four-page application form that can be filled in over the telephone. What they are proposing is a 22-page form.

"One of the reasons they are introducing the new permit is to cut fraud.

"It's really fraud in the city they are targeting. This 'fix all problems' solution puts up costs and complicates the process.

"Our attitude is that most people in Wiltshire are honest and that not everybody is a crook."

Claire Perry, Conservative MP for Devizes, said she had a great deal of sympathy with the council's position which operated a "very efficient" service turning the badges around within a week.

But Mrs Perry acknowledged that there was a "huge amount" of fraud and misuse of the badges.

"This means people who genuinely need the [disabled] bays often find them full.

"At [the Conservative Party] conference I will try to talk to the department and say 'we have an excellent system in Wiltshire - can we have an opt-out clause?'."

The blue badge scheme enables eligible people to park for up to three hours on double yellow lines for free.

It also allows free on-street parking where there are parking meters or permit schemes - if local authorities agree to waive the cost.

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