Tories make disabled pay
By Trevor Carbin
Wiltshire Council has announced its intention to charge £10 for a disabled person's blue badge for parking. The badges are currently free.
The increase is being blamed on government changes to the rules on the issue of blue badges following allegations of misuse. The process will be nationalised and a monopoly has been granted to a company called Northgate.
However local authorities will still be able to choose how much people in their areas should pay. WC has chosen to add to the £4.60 paid to Northgate and impose a total charge per badge of £10 - the maximum permitted by the government.
The decision on whether or not to issue a badge also remains with local councils. WC deputy leader John Thompson has lobbied against the government's changes, claiming that Wiltshire doesn't have a fraud problem. However his assertion was dismissed by the minister Norman Baker, who said, "I would be surprised if this were true and would be interested to see any evidence you have to support this claim."
WC will not be consulting disabled groups on the proposal as it says this has already been done at national level. The Conservative cabinet member responsible for the decision to increase the charge is Cllr John Noeken.