Disabled drivers and passengers in Preston now face a charge for having a blue badge.Advertisement
Lancashire County Council stands to make £274,000 by introducing a £10 charge for the badges which allow those with a disability and their carers to park close to locations such as supermarkets.
County councillor Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: “We are facing some tough decisions in light of the county council’s current financial situation.
“Unprecedented cuts in government funding, combined with an increasing demand for our services, mean we have to save £65m over the next two years.
“We issue more Blue Badges than any other council in the country. Although there will be a charge for this service, it is still great value for money as they provide a range of parking concessions for a three-year period.
“The charge was proposed following a review earlier this financial year. We also made improvements to the scheme which have led to a reduction in waiting times, improved processing times and fewer formal complaints.”
The county council issued 27,400 badges between March 2014 and April 2015 and says the charge will cover 58 per cent of the cost of issuing the blue badges.
Melanie Close, chief executive of Preston-based charity Disability Equality North West, said news of the charge had been mixed from her members.
She said: “We’ve discussed the charges with our members and received a mixed bag of responses.
“For some people, particularly those receiving higher rate disability benefits, they see the charge as manageable – they know LCC has to save money and think it might ‘save’ money for social care.
“However not all disabled people receive higher rate benefits, and to them, this is just another cost on top of all the other changes and charges happening.
“The charge is also for replacement badges – so you could pay £10 for a blue badge and then pay again a month later if you lose it.”
The county council said it was also expanding the blue badge scheme to be in use for community transport vehicles.
Councillor Martin said: “By making Blue Badges available for community transport vehicles, we want to make it quicker and easier for people with disabilities to get closer to where they need to be.”
The £10 charge comes into force from Tuesday 1 March.
What do you think of the charge? Will it affect you? Let us know in the comments below