Council wins funding to tackle blue badge fraud

Brighton & Hove City Council has won £183,000 of government funding to help the city crack down on misuse of blue badges and free up spaces for disabled people.

The city will be the first in the country to offer offenders the option of a community resolution order which would highlight the effects of depriving disabled people of parking spaces in a video, together with a financial penalty, instead of receiving a criminal record.

Working with Sussex Police and East Sussex County Council, the funding will also be used to help track down people who are misusing the badges, which are issued to disabled people so that they can park more easily, to raise awareness on how blue badges should be used and the consequences of blue badge fraud. Both councils are providing additional funding of £30,000.

There are around 13,000 blue badges in Brighton & Hove and a further 24,000 in East Sussex. The Audit Commission estimates that 20% of blue badges are misused.

Brighton & Hove City Council worked with the local Fed group in putting together the bid. The Fed’s expert advisers said: “From our research and conversations with disabled people we know that blue badge misuse can have a very detrimental impact on disabled people.”

Councillor Ian Davey, lead member for transport in Brighton & Hove, said: “Disabled people rely on blue badges to access all the facilities and leisure activities the rest of us take for granted. It is essential they are able to park close to where they want to go, so this funding will help us tackle misuse of blue badges much more effectively.”

Funding provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government will fund two blue badge fraud investigation officers operating across East Sussex and Brighton & Hove to improve detection and share intelligence.

Councillor Carl Maynard, lead member for transport and environment at East Sussex County Council, said: “The blue badge scheme benefits blue badge holders by providing better access. Blue badge fraud is widespread nationally, not just in the county, and it is affecting those genuinely entitled to the benefits of the scheme. To tackle this fraud more robust enforcement is needed.”

In recent years Brighton & Hove has worked successfully with Sussex Police and NSL on 'Operation Bluebird,' an initiative to target stolen blue badges and highlight fraud. When the partnership started, there was a 25% drop in thefts of blue badges during 2010/11. This year it was recognised at the British Parking Awards in the 'Parking Partnership' category. The funding will allow the work to continue and be extended.

Chief Inspector Gareth Davies of Sussex Police said: "We have been working closely with our partners and will deal robustly with those fraudulently using the blue badges and who illegally seek to take advantage of the scheme at the expense of those it is there to assist."

Cllr Davey added: “We want to make sure everyone can get to and enjoy what Brighton & Hove has to offer. Any surplus parking income in Brighton & Hove is re-invested into to transport improvements and most of it is spent on concessionary travel for older and disabled people.”