Friday, 30 December 2011

Five fold increase in blue badge charges

THE fee for getting a disabled blue badge in Solihull is to rise from £2 to £10 under new plans.

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Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council is to charge the maximum allowed by the Government under arrangements for the scheme.

The change would take affect from March 1 and will cut the cash-strapped council’s annual costs from £31,000 to £15,000.

The council currently receives applications but under the new plans these would be sent to a national provider, which would charge the council £4.60 to process each badge.

The badges will be changed to a “passport style” design designed at reducing fraud and the council said a central provider would improve security by keeping a national database.

The Government has said the crackdown on fraudulent badges will free up spaces, saving parking fees for badge holders who cannot use their badge to park for free.

The badge entitles holders to park for free on single or double yellow lines and on street parking bays.

The council said it will choose to pay a further £4.85 for a wallet for each badge to “facilitate displaying the badge correctly more easily”.

About 6,000 applications are made to the council each year and 4,500 badges issued.

The council said keeping the fee at £2 would cost it an unaffordable £52,000 a year. It said it could struggle to issue passes quickly if people apply before March to avoid the higher fee.

The Department for Transport will only accept online applications for the badges, which the council said is “a problem”.

It said staff at Solihull Connect offices will take paper forms from applicants and submit them online.

In a press release, Councillor Bob Sleigh, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “We know that the current blue badge system is unfortunately abused by some people, and this new system will make it far more difficult to forge and copy badges.”

The press release does not mention the proposed rise in fees.

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