Charges for Blue Badges are set to be brought in for the first time in Lancashire.
Lancashire County Council (LCC) is the highest issuing authority of Blue Badges in England but is the only one to provide them free-of-charge. This is despite the Department for Transport allowing authorities to charge up to £10 for printed Blue Badges.
But now, with LCC facing cuts of £223m over the next five years, it is proposed the maximum charge is brought in for new and replacement badges, including renwals.This would cover around 58 per cent of the administrative costs.
A spokesman for LCC said the proposals - which are still to be agreed - followed a review of the service.
He said: “Following the review, we’ve improved the Blue Badge service by reducing waiting times, improving processing times and seen a fall in the number of formal complaints. We’ve also introduced a formal appeals procedure.
“A decision on whether to introduce the £10 charge for Blue Badges will be taken by the cabinet member for adult and community services on December 7.”
Over 27,400 Blue Badges were issued in the past 12 months by Lancashire County Council. This includes replacement badges.
If charges are brought in, charges would not apply to people who can provide evidence that they have had their Blue Badge stolen.
Melanie Close, chief executive of Preston-based Disability Equality said she could understand the situation LCC are in, but had concerns.
She said: “The first thing they must do is carry out consultations with users and find out the impact this decision will have.
“It’s well known that disabled people are hardest hit, disproportionately hit, by all the welfare reforms. There are some really, really deprived wards in Lancashire and some people may not be able to afford to pay.
“I’d also like to know if the money will go to improving the administrative process of Blue Badges, or will it just be using disabled people to fill a hole in their budget?”
She pointed out that reminder notices for Blue Badges had already been scrapped to save money.