Disabled drivers get one-month parking reprieve
DISABLED drivers in Bristol are to be given a one-month amnesty to avoid them getting parking tickets while a backlog of blue badge applications is being dealt with.
Lib Dem Cabinet Councillor Tim Kent said parking wardens have been told to give badge holders up to 28 days from the date their badge expires before issuing a ticket for a parking infringement.
Some councillors have received complaints because of the delays in getting blue badges renewed.
The badges are used by disabled drivers and the infirm so they can park nearer their destinations.
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Councillor Gus Hoyt (Green, Ashley) said: "I have been contacted by individuals who face being completely house-bound for fear of receiving parking tickets due to the fact that we as a council are taking too long to renew blue badges this year. Clearly this is a completely unacceptable situation.
"The waiting list time for a renewal almost doubled this year from six to 12 weeks and many individuals have been caught out by this unfortunate event.
"I have spoken to the council officers responsible for this role and they are by no means to blame. They have worked more hours and have even frequently worked on Saturday in an attempt to deal with this backlog.
"They are fully aware of the pressures they are under and the consequences of the new system introduced this year.
"Individual councils are responsible for the process of assessment and issuing of permits. The process this year was altered, causing great distress to many applicants and obvious frustration of council workers.
"There has been insufficient funding to pay for this additional workload – though a new position will hopefully be filled soon."
A council spokeswoman said: "National changes were made to the system for processing blue badges in January this year and these changes have lengthened the time taken to process applications. Blue badge holders have significant advantages when it comes to parking and it is essential to ensure only those who are fully entitled receive this benefit.
"The introduction of the new system now includes a lot more personal information, the addition of a passport standard photograph (which must be scanned, cropped and recorded, before being deleted once a badge has been issued) and the administration of an issue fee.
"Also, in the past, the badges were created manually in a few minutes, now the badges are printed by a new central body, who are responsible for the secure printing, personalisation and distribution of badges with the new style badges having security features which make it virtually impossible to produce fraudulent copies."
She said before the new system, badge applications were taking between six to eight weeks but now they are taking up to 11 weeks.
Mr Kent said: "I realise how important these badges are to vulnerable members of the community.
"I think it is the fear of receiving a parking ticket which has caused a problem because the actual number of tickets which are issued to badge holders is very, very few."
He stressed that the amnesty would not apply outside Bristol.