Surge in Norfolk reports of blue badges, meant to be for disabled people, being misused
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Reports of misuse of blue badges, supposed to be for people with disabilities, have surged - and council bosses are expecting a further rise.
Blue badges are disabled parking permits which allow people registered blind, or with severe mobility issues, to park closer to their destinations.
About 38,000 are held by people in Norfolk.
Holders, who are drivers or passengers, are able to park on yellow lines for up to three hours if they display their badge correctly.
They can also park for free at on-street spaces covered by parking meters and pay and display machines.
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But it is a criminal offence for people to misuse the badges, including lending them to family and friends to use.
Civil enforcement officers check badges are being used properly and since 2016, Norfolk County Council has had a dedicated blue badge investigator, funded by the Norfolk Parking Partnership.
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Following the launch of the blue badge investigation service reports of potential misuse of the badges has soared.
In the first six months of 2016/17 there were 29 reports received, of which six resulted in formal prosecution and 13 led to warning letters or verbal advice from the investigator.
In the 12 months of 2017/18 there were 103 reports, with eight prosecutions and 24 warning letters or verbal advice issued.
And, in the first three quarters of this financial year 86 reports were received, with five prosecutions and 19 warning letters or verbal advice issued.
Officers, in a report which went before councillors this week, said: 'As the service has become established and public awareness increased, so has the level of reporting. This shows a steady increase in work load for the blue badge investigator.'
And, changes to the eligibility criteria for the badges could see more blue badges being issued from the summer. The Department For Transport's criteria change aims to make it simpler for people with hidden disabilities to get the badges.
That could see an increase of around 20pc (8,400) in the number of badges issued in Norfolk, which officers said will also increase the risk of fraudulent and wrongful use.
Councillors agreed to fund the blue badge investigator post for a further two years.