Disabled drivers in Bridgend could soon lose their right to free car parking in council-owned car parks, it has been reported today.
Disability rights campaigners say the move would heap more pain and misery on vulnerable people, many of whom have already been affected by Government welfare cuts.
Simon Green, chairman of the Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People, said the proposal to strip free car parking rights from nearly 11,000 blue badge holders would be a “massive mistake”.
“At the moment it seems like the disabled community is being hit from all angles”, he added.
“For our council to chuck this extra hardship on our disabled community is very wrong.”
Simon added: “People think ‘Why shouldn’t someone with a blue badge pay for parking when I have to?’
“But the fact is when you are disabled everything takes longer and everything costs more. There are a lot more outgoings especially at a time when the Westminster Government is cutting a variety of benefits.”
Bridgend Council has defended the proposal, saying 58% of local residents agreed with the move “for income generation” during a budget consultation last year.
The council is holding a public consultation on charging disabled drivers for the use of council-run pay and display car parks, due to close on 7 December.
If accepted, 10,758 blue badge holders in the borough would be expected to pay the same as other car park users.
However, the council says blue badge holders would be allowed an hour of free parking in addition to that they’ve paid for.
The local authority insists that charging disabled people for parking in the city is legal, as long as the income generated is only used for certain purposes.
This may raise fears that other local authorities could follow suite, as a means to generate revenue at a time when funding from central Government is being cut.
Councillor Hywel Williams, Cabinet Member for Communities, told the Daily Mirror: “We would like to gather opinion on whether this concession should continue.
“We have already carried out an informal consultation with local ward members, town and community councils, emergency services, transport services and the Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People, and would now like to extend that consultation to other residents too.”
Simon Green said many disabled people don’t have a choice but to use their car. He claimed there is a lack of accessible transport in the area and only three taxis with wheelchair access.
He also warned of as yet unknown costs in upgrading ticket machines in car parks for wheelchair users.
Rather than generating more income for the council, disabled blue badge holders may simply stop using car parks.
The Bridgend Constituency is currently held by Labour MP Madeleine Moon. Mrs Moon has been contacted for a comment.