Council bosses have issued a stern warning and vowed to clamp down on Wigan’s “selfish” blue badge cheats.
A new town hall report has revealed shocking levels of disabled badge fraud in the borough with officers pledging to carry out more spot checks.
The misuse of blue badges is not only illegal, but a selfish act which abuses a system there to help disabled people in our communitiesCoun Paul Kenny
In the six month period between April and September this year, some 133investigations were carried out into alleged blue badge abuse.
Evidence of fraud was found in 120 of those cases, almost double the amount recorded in the whole of last year.
A total of 112 warning letters were issued and 86 blue badges were either destroyed and taken out of circulation.
The shock figures form part of an audit report which is set to be discussed by a council committee this week.
Coun Paul Kenny, the cabinet member for resources at Wigan Council, said: “The misuse of blue badges is not only illegal, but a selfish act which abuses a system there to help disabled people in our communities.
“People who are currently misusing the blue badges throughout the borough need to be aware that they are risking being taken to court and receiving a heavy fine.”
Councils are responsible for tackling blue badge cheats in their area with many having their own enforcement teams. Manchester City Council, for example, operates a zero-tolerance approach with fraudsters facing court convictions.
An enforcement day in June saw 10 spot checks conducted in Wigan which led to one expired badge being confiscated. Another warning letter was issued when it was found the badge was being used illegally by the owner’s husband, the report reads.
Wigan Council’s last prosecution for a blue badge offence was in February 2015 but says they have cases currently being investigated and issued formal cautions to around 10 blue badge offenders.
Two more enforcement days are planned in the upcoming months, it adds.
The nationwide blue badge scheme allows holders to park free in pay-and-display areas and for up to three hours on yellow lines. Councils in England took legal action against 985 people in 2014-15, the vast majority of them for using someone else’s blue badge.
It compares with 535 the year before, according to data from the Department for Transport. In Wigan borough in 2014/15, the council found 66 cases of blue badge fraud with 47 warning letters issued and 57 badges destroyed.
Coun Kenny added: “Blue badges are a huge help to disabled people to get out and about and they should only be used by the person whose name is on the badge.”
James Taylor, head of policy and research at disability charity Scope, said: “It’s good to see councils tackling abuse of the blue badge system.”
Wigan Council has created an online reporting tool for people to report Blue Badge abuse. This is via Wigan Council’s website: www.wigan.gov.uk/Resident/Parking-Roads-Travel/Parking/Blue-Badge-permit/Report-Blue-Badge-fraud.aspx