DISABLED drivers have lost their free town centre multi storey car parking.
The Blue Badge concession has been withdrawn by councillors from today (Thursday) as part of their emergency budget in light of £66m Government cuts over the next four years.
And in a further blow, town hall chiefs have scrapped the disabled concessions at Wigan’s pay and display surface level car parks.
It has been replaced with a free two-hour concession to use there on top of their ticket purchase as an acknowledgement that disabled people need longer to get around to do their shopping than the able-bodied.
Blue badge rights to use marked on-street disabled spaces continue although are now limited to three hours.
A move to automate The Galleries and Water Street car parks - which are also now fully operational - will save around £80,000 a year.
Council corporate director of places Gillian Bishop said that a recent survey of on-street pay and display bays in Wigan revealed that 62 per cent of the spaces were used by vehicles displaying a blue badge as they provided more convenient and easier access to the shops and services.
She said: “A blue badge can be issued to those who have mobility difficulties and are no reflection on the holder’s ability to pay parking charges.
“Indeed Wigan Access Committee for the Disabled have indicated that, on average, disabled people have as much disposable income as other members of the public.”
But the decision has been attacked by a disabled motorists’ charity.
Director of Policy for campaigning group Disabled Motoring UK, Helen Dolphin said: “Some councils, such as Norwich and Lincoln, have been forced to change their policy of charging everyone the same when challenged under the Equality Act but I think by offering badge holders two hours free Wigan will avoid any legal action.
“My concern is whether they have considered those who cannot use parking payment machines.”