Blue badge thefts rocket - and many councils aren't stopping it

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman

Numbers of blue badges being reported stolen have jumped by 45%, new figures show, as councils find themselves accused of failing to take action.

Some 4,246 disabled parking permits were stolen across 2017/18, according to data from the Department for Transport.

But most councils failed to take action against a single motorist for abusing the scheme in the past 12 months, the figures show.

A total of ninety-four out of 152 English local authorities (62%) did not pursue anyone for abusing the permits in 2017/18.

This included 31 councils who did not catch anyone despite claiming to have a policy for prosecuting offenders.

Local authorities in Nottingham, Middlesbrough, Shropshire, Luton, Milton Keynes, Bournemouth and Reading were among those to record zero prosecutions.

Almost every case involving the 1,215 prosecutions which were launched involved drivers using someone else’s blue badge.

The number of blue badge thefts rocketed in 2017/18. Credit: PA

Around 2.4 million disabled people in England have blue badges, which are issued by councils.

The permits allow holders to park free of charge in pay and display bays and for up to three hours on yellow lines, while those in London are exempt from the congestion charge.

Across England, the largest number of prosecutions were made by the London boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham (137) and Newham (88), with Leeds (78) in third place.

Phil Talbot of disability charity Scope said: "It's disgraceful that so many local councils have failed to take action against people misusing blue badges – particularly at a time when thefts are on the rise.

"Stealing blue badges isn’t a crime without consequences. They are a vital lifeline for those who genuinely need them.

"Many disabled people rely on their blue badge to live independently, be part of the local community and contribute to their local economy.

"The police and councils need to do all they can to ensure they are serving their disabled residents by cracking down on this abuse."

Around 2.4 million disabled people in England have blue badges. Credit: PA

Martin Tett, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, representing councils, said: "Councils have to take tough decisions on targeting limited resources on enforcement.

"Gathering evidence and mounting a prosecution can be time-consuming and expensive but councils know their areas and are best placed to decide the most effective way to tackle it."

Mr Tett claimed the disparity in enforcement levels across the country is likely to reflect "different levels of pressures on available parking".

He added that people can help councils win the fight against Blue Badge fraud by "tipping us off" about suspected offenders.