CHANGES to the Blue Badge parking scheme which allows people with mobility problems to park more conveniently are to be introduced from January.
Derbyshire County Council has agreed to introduce the changes which are part of the Government’s national initiative called the Blue Badge Reform Programme.
The Blue Badge Reform Programme aims to improve the administration of the Blue Badge scheme, making it easier to stop fraudulent production and illegal use of the badges and ensuring only genuine users benefit from the scheme.
Blue Badges are issued to people with severe mobility problems and a badge holder can display them in their car or a vehicle they are travelling in, to park closer to where they need to be, often for free.
There are currently 52,000 Blue Badge holders across Derbyshire and around 5,000 new applications are approved each year.
The Blue Badge schemes have been run by local authorities but guidelines are set nationally.
Earlier this year the first part of the Blue Badge Reform Programme saw the addition of two new categories of people who now qualify for a badge – children up to their third birthday instead of their second birthday and Armed Forces personnel and veterans receiving certain benefits.
The second part of the reform, to be introduced from January 2012, will allow local authorities to charge up to £10 for a Blue Badge, which must be applied for every three years.
At the moment there is a nominal charge of £2, unchanged since 1983, which Derbyshire County Council charges on a discretionary basis, normally only to cover lost badges that need replacing.
The council’s Cabinet agreed at its meeting to introduce the national fee of £10 from January 2012.
The new fee will be used to cover the costs of the new national administration of the scheme and go towards the cost of producing the new badge which will be of a higher specification to help counter fraud.
Appeals and applications will still be dealt with by the county council but information relating to all new Blue Badges will be held on a national database which will make it easier for parking enforcement officers to spot when a badge is being used fraudulently.
Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Adult Care Councillor Charles Jones said: “The changes are being introduced nationally and we have agreed that the fee of £10 for a badge, which will last for three years, is fair and necessary to cover costs.
“The main aim of the changes is to help combat the fraudulent use of Blue Badges which is rife not only in this county but across the country and abroad.
“When people are using badges they are not entitled to they risk a fine of up to £1,000 and are taking up parking spaces needed by someone with genuine mobility problems who will rely on this scheme to get out and about.
“This reform will make it a great deal harder for badges to be issued or used by people who do not qualify for them and we welcome it.”
In England Blue Badge holders may generally park on single or double yellow lines for up to three hours, except where there is a ban for loading or unloading.
They may also park at `on-street’ parking meters and pay-and-display machines for free and for as long as they need to.
People with queries about the Blue Badge scheme should call the county council’s contact centre Call Derbyshire on 08456 058 058.