A Liberal Democrat-led council has sparked a major row after it came to light that it’s ‘taxing’ disabled people to park. But the charge, of about £3,300 per person, is not for using a public car park. It’s for disabled people to park [pdf, p1] outside their own homes.
A Lib Dem council
The Lib Dem/Independent coalition at Cornwall Council charges [pdf] disabled people to have an official blue badge space put outside their properties. But this does not guarantee [pdf, p1] that the disabled person will even have access to the space, as any blue badge holder can use it.
The council says [pdf, p1] the cost of each blue badge bay is:
associated with the creation of a traffic regulation order, advertising, consultation, and implementation of a new bay lining and signing…
At a meeting on Tuesday 23 January, an opposition councillor put forward a motion [pdf] that the charges be scrapped. And to make matters even more embarrassing for the Lib Dems, the councillor was a Conservative.
Conservative Councillor Richard Pears said [1:04:20]:
We all have to deal with busy streets across our county, and the parking difficulties this causes. For most of us, this is an inconvenience…
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But for people with some specific disabilities, this is not an option. Without a guaranteed space outside their house, they have no way to access their car. And we all know that in a rural area like ours a car can be a lifeline…
Pears’s motion called [pdf, p1] on the council to “urgently review its policy”. He claimed other councils either charge a nominal fee or nothing. The most expensive council he could find [pdf, p2] was Leicestershire, which charges £100.
Pears told [1:05:28] the council meeting that its charge for a blue badge space:
amounts to nothing more than a tax on disability.
Disabled people: hit again
I don’t think it is right or fair that someone should have to pay over £3,000 for a parking bay… That does need to be changed and that is something that I will set out to do.
But disabled people have hit back. Co-founder of campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Linda Burnip told The Canary:
It is appalling that any council should impose such a ridiculously high charge on disabled people simply for painting a few lines on the road. This is blatant discrimination and Cornwall Council should be dragged through the courts unless they back down.
Cornwall Council’s charge is yet another cost for disabled people, at a time when they are already bearing the brunt of Conservative-led austerity. And it’s worth remembering that it is austerity that was enabled by the Lib Dems in the first place.
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