Disabled drivers speak out against plans to introduce fees for their blue badges

A group representing disabled people in South Gloucestershire has spoken out against new plans to charge for blue badge applications. Applying for a blue badge, which allows drivers to park in disabled bays, is currently free in the district.

But from April, disabled drivers will likely have to pay a £10 fee to apply for a blue badge, or to renew one every three years. South Gloucestershire Council is planning to bring in the application fee to raise an extra £46,000 income each year.

Equalities Voice raised concerns that the new fee could “isolate an already isolated community”, if some drivers were unable to pay, in a written response to the council’s consultation on its budget. The proposals form one of several new income streams, including new parking fees.

A spokesperson for Equalities Voice said: “By introducing a charge, disabled people will be yet again financially impacted if they use blue badges to get out and about. If blue badges are no longer affordable for some, this will likely isolate an already isolated community of people, and put further strain on transport companies to cater to the needs of disabled individuals.

“If these blue badges aren’t affordable, the independence of disabled people in South Gloucestershire will also be impacted. Such a fee would only impact the disabled community, and the South Gloucestershire Disability Equality Network feels very strongly that this is an unnecessary option, as it relies on an already financially drained and challenged community.

“It appears from the calculations in the consultation that it would not raise a significant sum of money as a result of being implemented.”

Just over half of respondents to the budget consultation were in favour of the new application fee — equivalent to the cost of about two litres of petrol per year — while 29 per cent disagreed. Most other local authorities already charge for blue badge applications and renewals. Over the last three years there has been an annual average of 1,780 new badges and 3,851 renewals.

Councillor Claire Young, the Liberal Democrat council leader, was asked about the new fees during a cabinet meeting on Monday, February 5. She said the council would “work with” drivers who couldn’t afford to pay.

Cllr Young said: “We’ll work with individuals who can’t afford the £10 charge over three years. I would point out that it is £10 over three years, not per year. Elsewhere, we’re investing in support to help people maximise their income.”

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporter