What difference does one parking space make? A lot to people with reduced mobility. Those who misuse Blue Badges may not think it is a big deal, but for genuine badge holders who lose out on a parking space, it can have an enormous impact on their daily lives.
That’s why Oxfordshire County Council, in partnership with Oxford City Council’s anti-fraud team and Cherwell District Council, undertook an on-street operation to detect and prevent abuse of the Blue Badge scheme in Oxfordshire last week.
During the operation, it was estimated that 1,000 Blue Badges were checked across Oxfordshire, with 21 seized. In Oxford, 600 were checked, 12 seized.
Blue Badge misuse is a criminal offence and can result in a fine of up to £1,000 and a criminal record. A penalty charge notice will also be issued to anyone misusing a disabled parking bay.
County Councillor Judith Heathcoat, County Council Cabinet Member for Customer Services, which also includes the Blue Badge service, said: “People should be aware that we are determined to enforce the law in this area.
“The Blue Badge system needs to operate with integrity and we are prepared to act to make sure it does. That message should be heard loud and clear by those who think it is acceptable to abuse this service. It’s not!”
Councillor Ed Turner, Oxford City Council's Board Member for Finance and Asset Management, said: "Over the last few years the City Council’s award-winning Investigations team has established itself as one of the country’s leading teams in countering public sector fraud – including the misuse of Blues Badges.
“Those who misuse the badges may not think it is a big deal, but for those genuine badge holders who lose out on a parking space, it can be. This is the fourth time that the City Council has partnered the County Council in an initiative to clamp down on Blue Badge misuse and I’m confident it won’t be the last.”
Councillor Andrew McHugh, Cherwell’s lead member for health and wellbeing, said: “It is vital that the right of people living with disabilities to park in allocated bays be respected and protected. People who think they can misuse the Blue Badge parking system are reminded that there can be a high price to pay, as this enforcement operation shows.”
As well as removing Blue Badges from people who are misusing and abusing the scheme, the operation was used to raise awareness of the importance Blue Badges have for people who really need them.
Many Oxfordshire residents rely on their Blue Badge to remain mobile and independent, enabling them to access goods and services that many of us take for granted.
The operation also targeted misuse of disabled parking bays. When a disabled bay is being used by someone who does not have a legitimate Blue Badge, this can have serious implications for those who genuinely need to use the space. Inappropriate use of disabled parking bays can result in Blue Badge holders missing medical appointments, not being able to get out to buy food, or get to work. Every space really does matter.
Hospitals, shopping centres and supermarkets were among the locations targeted across Oxfordshire. Last month, the County Council ran an amnesty for people to hand in any bogus or out of date Blue Badges. Over 200 were handed in. It is hoped that the amnesty and the enforcement will make people more aware that they should not be abusing the Blue Badge scheme.
Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City and Cherwell are appealing to badge holders to return their old badges when they are issued with a new one or when the badge is no longer needed. If the badge holder has died or the badge is no longer needed, please return it to County Hall, or at any library around the county, or send it to: Blue Badge Service, PO Box 873, Oxford, OX1 9NY.
For further information about the Blue Badge scheme, including how to apply using the County Council’s new application service, visit the website: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/disabledparking