8 March 2016

Tackling misuse of disabled parking badges

An innovative pilot project to tackle the misuse of blue badges in Brighton & Hove and East Sussex has won two national awards.

Brighton & Hove City Council, in conjunction with East Sussex County Council and Sussex Police and NSL, launched Operation Bluebird to free up disabled parking spaces for people who genuinely need them.

The project won the Parking in the Community award and the Parking Partnerships award at the British Parking Awards on March 4.

As part of the initiative the area has become the first in the country to offer offenders the option of a community resolution order, instead of receiving a criminal record.  Under this order the offender watches a video featuring local disabled people, which highlights the impact blue badge misuse has on their everyday lives.

Between autumn 2014, when Operation Bluebird was launched, to the end of January this year, in Brighton & Hove it has resulted in:

91 Blue Badges confiscated
97 Community Resolution Orders
45 prosecutions

A survey of 655 local Blue Badge holders showed 99.7% supported the initiative and other councils have expressed interest in learning more about it.

An update on the project will be given in a report to members of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee at a meeting on March 15. Cllr Gill Mitchell, chair of the committee, said:  “The majority of blue badges are used legitimately – but those which aren’t take away disabled parking spaces from people who really need them, and that’s why Operation Bluebird was launched. It is making a real difference and we are pleased that this work with our partners has been recognised with two national awards.

“The Community Resolution Order video is a way of deterring further offences and educating people that misuse of a blue badge is not a victimless offence.”

Steve Parish, NSL’s Account Director said, ‘We are delighted to be involved in this partnership and supporting this valuable service. Every time someone uses a blue badge fraudulently they are potentially denying a genuinely disabled person a parking space close to their destination. To receive an award for the this joint operation has been fantastic and clearly demonstrates how working together we can make a real difference and help to reduce Blue Badge Fraud in the area.”

Chief Inspector Chris Veale of Sussex Police said: "This operation shows both our desire to work in partnership and to use new and innovative approaches to tackle crime. The use of community resolution in these circumstances, which has shown offenders  the impact of their actions on disabled people really influences future behaviour, prevents crime and helps to support and protect our most vulnerable people."

Cllr Bill Bentley, East Sussex County Council lead member for adult social care, said: “This accolade recognises the benefits of partners working together to take an innovative approach to tackling the scourge of blue badge misuse.

“It’s vital that people with a genuine disability are able to park close enough to enable them to access facilities and leisure activities. This scheme is doing a great job of targeting those who misuse blue badges and raising awareness of what an inconsiderate and anti-social act this is.

“The awards are the result of a lot of hard work by a very dedicated team and I’d like to offer them my congratulations.”

Note to editors:

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