The blue badge disabled parking programme is to undergo significant changes following the introduction of a new Scottish Government scheme.
Transport Scotland is co-ordinating the introduction in Scotland of a new national Blue Badge Improvement Service (BBIS), under which all councils in England, Scotland and Wales will have to source new fraud-proof badges via the BBIS and use a new single BBIS data sharing system.
The changes, which take effect from January 1 2012, will significantly increase the administrative burden for the council as well as the cost per badge.
The council’s Executive today agreed to raise the fee for new Blue Badges (and replacements) awarded after January 1 2012 to the maximum permissible amount (currently £20) to reflect the additional workload and cost of badge production.
Councillor Andrew Nisbet, Argyll and Bute’s spokesperson for social affairs, said the increase was an unavoidable result of the national initiative which is a response to widespread abuse of the current blue badge scheme.
“Our current fee will not even come close to covering the amount which the council will be invoiced for each new badge. Nor does it cover the significant cost of the implementation and ongoing administration of the new scheme,” he said.
“I very much regret having to bring in these increases. However, the increase will only take Argyll and Bute into line with the majority of other Scottish councils – some 60% of which already levy or plan to levy a £20 fee before the inception of this new scheme.
“It should be remembered that a Blue Badge lasts for three years, so the £20 fee is the equivalent of an annual charge of £6.67 in return for year-round free parking.”
News of the Government’s blue badge reform programme in February came just weeks after Argyll and Bute Council had completed a major overhaul of its own blue badge administration, making it easier for customers to apply through new postal and online channels.
Councillor Nisbet said: “We were really ahead of the game in this area. So for us the main change will be the improvement in anti-fraud capabilities.
“Nevertheless, implementing the new scheme by January 1 2012 is a legislative requirement, and one which we are well-placed to meet, given the fact that we re-engineered and streamlined our own processes so recently.
“We will be contacting our customers over the next few weeks through all available channels to alert them to the changes, talk them through the implications and help them with any queries they may have.”
At present, blue badge award and production is undertaken wholly by the council, using national statutory parameters for eligibility and badge design.
In 2010/11, 1,736 customers in Argyll and Bute were issued with either new or replacement blue badges. Each badge lasts for three years, and some 4,500 individuals in the region carry such a badge at any one time.