AN OPERATION to prevent fraudulent use of blue badges in Harrow last week revealed that one in three drivers are misusing the permits.
Police officers and staff from Harrow Council's fraud team challenged drivers in the town centre on Thursday last week (May 25), only to discover that more than 30 per cent of motorists were misusing disabled parking benefits.
This has led to the council urging transport minister Norman Baker to pick up the pace on reform of the badges.
In February, Mr Baker announced new powers that would allow council officers to confiscate badges on the spot to deter illegal use, however, the legislation is unlikely to be enforced until 2013-14 at the earliest.
Harrow Council is now writing to urge the minister to bring the reforms forward to deal with a pressing problem that threatens the independence of older or disabled residents.
Speaking about the need for quicker reform Avani Modasia, Chief Executive of Age UK Harrow, said: "We know so many people who depend on the blue badge to live life to the full but have a real problem parking because others think it is okay to abuse the privilege. It is really damaging and I would say to anyone who does misuse the permits, just think of your own elderly or disabled relatives before you take these much needed spaces.
"We fully support the action the council is taking on this issue and join the calls for new powers to stand up for the rights of genuine blue badge users."
Councillor Graham Henson, portfolio holder for performance, customer services and corporate services at the council, added: "Elderly and disabled residents depend on their blue badges and suffer when parking spaces are snapped up by fraudsters. We are standing up for residents and need to protect the independence their permits give them but despite action, publicity and prosecutions, the message is not getting through.
"That is why we will urge the Transport Minister to introduce these new powers now as a real deterrent to those who think it is acceptable to abuse the blue badge scheme.
"It is not on, they are denying access to a service for some of our most vulnerable residents and we need these reforms now if we are going to tackle this increasing problem."
Speaking about blue badge reforms a spokesperson from Norman Baker's office said: "Many of the Blue Badge reforms announced in February 2011 will be implemented within a year. or example extending eligibility to more disabled children under the age of 3 with specific medical conditions will happen in June and the introduction of a new badge design that is harder to copy, forge and alter will be implemented from January 2012.
"However reforms that involve changing primary legislation will take longer as they will depend on the availability of Parliamentary time. This includes providing local authorities with an on-the-spot power to recover badges that have been cancelled and misused, which will come into effect in 2013/14".