APCOA PARKING has raised the bar in parking enforcement in a bid to curb the number of misused and tampered blue badges being used in the UK.
With an estimated 600,000 (c. one in every five) blue badges in circulation being abused; at a reported cost of *£46m to the taxpayer, APCOA and the London Borough of Redbridge (LBoR) have been working together to use new legislation to protect the Blue Badge Scheme. It allows civil enforcement officers (CEOs) to inspect and retain blues badges without police presence.
Under the Disabled Persons’ Parking Badges Act 2013, CEOs can retain a blue badge if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that a badge is being misused or abused. However, the public are largely unaware of CEOs’ new powers.
In a move to combat blue badge fraud and misuse, APCOA, in consultation with LBoR, has developed what is reported to be the first ever blue badge window notification slip (pictured right) to raise awareness, and discourage users and opportunists from abusing the Blue Badge Scheme.
The notification slip works on a similar premise to a parking charge notice (PCN), whereby officers are asked to complete the slip and place on the front window screen of vehicles that are deemed to display either a misused or fraudulent blue badge. This is based on the A-D check list criteria set by the Department for Transport, which is broadly categorised into two main groups:
- Abuse of badges: using a counterfeit (fake) badge, a lost or stolen badge, or a badge of a deceased person.
- Misuse of genuine badges: using a badge when the registered user is not present.
The design of the notification slip cites both the legislation and potential penalties, and prompts officers to record the incident location and tick one of four boxes if they believe that a badge is being misused or abused. This information is then passed over to the relevant blue badge issuing authority.
APCOA officers in Redbridge have also been provided with an in-house Pocket Guide to Blue Badge Enforcement, which defines the process of how and when to retain a blue badge for uniformity purposes.
Henk de Bruin, Group Director for APCOA PARKING Holdings, said: “Since the inception of the Blue Badge Initiative in September 2013, APCOA has been working closely with the London Borough of Redbridge to identify a clear strategy and framework to support CEOs when inspecting blue badges.
“There is a growing need to identify those who feel it is appropriate to abuse the Blue Badge Scheme. The concept of the blue badge notification slips and pocket guide work on the basis of providing more visibility around the process, which enables officers to inspect and retain blue badges with more confidence.”
“It’s necessary to protect such an important scheme that provides extra mobility to people across the country. We want to uphold the principles of Scheme and support those who rely on it to go about their daily lives,” added de Bruin.
Councillor Baldesh Nijjar, Cabinet Member for Environment for Redbridge Council, said: “Blue Badge misuse is a nationwide problem and Redbridge wants to take proactive steps to ensure that it stands up for the disabled community.
“The Blue Badge Scheme is excellent. It’s a true gateway to mobility for disabled people, and its value cannot be allowed to be undermined by people who would gladly use fake badges or misuse them.”
Helen Dolphin, Director of Policy and Campaigns for Disabled Motoring UK, said: “I’m really delighted to hear that APCOA, in conjunction with the London Borough of Redbridge, is tackling blue badge fraud head on.
“I believe their initiative will really make people stop and think twice before attempting to doctor or misuse a blue badge, which only serve to deprive a disabled person from parking.
“As a quadruple amputee, I know just how important is it to be able to park close to where I need to be. And while new legislation assists genuine disabled badge holders, it needs to be enforced in such a way to remove any ambiguity. Therefore, using the window notification slips is a great way to raise awareness, but importantly remove the fakes and forgeries off the street.”
Following a successful pilot operation on 25 July 2014; which saw civil enforcement officers seize two misused blue badges in just three hours within a half-mile radius, APCOA officially went live with the Blue Badge Initiative on 7 August 2014 in the London Borough of Redbridge.
APCOA PARKING (UK) was established in 1971 as a parking management company, and became the first company in the UK to provide on-street parking enforcement in 1986. APCOA currently employs over 2,000 staff in the UK and a further 2,500 staff across 11 other European countries.
To date, APCOA is the largest full-service parking management company in Europe, providing a wide range of on and off-street services on behalf of local authorities, and clients at airports, rail stations, shopping centres, town and city centres, hotels, hospitals and universities.
For more information about APCOA PARKING (UK), please email UKpress@apcoa.com.