Norfolk disabled drivers face long delays in blue badge applications

Applications by disabled people for blue badges have been hit by lengthy delays.

Applications by disabled people for blue badges have been hit by lengthy delays. - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2009

Extra staff have been brought in to help bring down lengthy waits for disabled badges, which saw some Norfolk applicants forced to wait 10 weeks for a decision.

At the start of last year, Norfolk County Council, which distributes about 14,200 blue badges each year, brought in a new processing service for the badges.

The council, in response to government recommendations to improve the service and make it harder to forge the badges, contracted Northgate Ltd to process them.

But customers have not been happy at the length of time it has taken to get a decision on their badges.

At one point it was taking 10 weeks, but it is now down to between six and eight weeks after extra staff were brought in. Council officers say part of the reason for the delays is that about 30 applications for badges each day still come through in paper form, which means they have to be typed into the Blue Badge database.

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The council has been keen to encourage people to complete the application process online, but some people have said they do not have easy access to computers, so prefer to apply online.

The new system has also been affected by faults and what officers describe as 'a poor response to ICT queries' from Northagte, although they say Northgate has now agreed to review the 'fixes' needed.

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At a meeting of the council's community services overview and scrutiny panel next week, councillors will be asked to create a customer services monitoring group to oversee the service.

It is proposed that the group will include a councillor, a representative from the Disabled Drivers Association and other council officers.

The committee will make its decision when it meets at County Hall on Tuesday.

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