Cornwall Council will be increasing the charge for a three-year Blue Badge to £10 from 8 May 2013. The following is a briefing note I have been sent by the council to explain the change:
The national Blue Badge scheme is run by the Department for Transport (DfT) and allows individuals with severe mobility problems to park nearer to where they need to go. Each local authority has the responsibility for processing applications, and to assess people’s eligibility against a set of national criteria.
In Cornwall, approximately 33,000 people hold a Blue Badge at any one time, and 13,000 new applications or renewals are received each year. The scheme is managed by Shared Services.
Since 1983, the Government has capped the maximum councils may charge for this service at £2. During that time, the cost of administering the scheme has significantly increased, and last year Cornwall Council made a £100,000 loss.
From 1 January 2012, the Government increased the maximum a council may charge to £10, which is the fee Cornwall Council will set for applications from 8 May 2013.
While this may seem a big increase, the Blue Badge scheme still represents excellent value for money, at less than a penny a day. In addition, there is now a national issuing body, which the Council must pay £4.60 per badge; the remainder has to cover the Council’s administration and assessment costs.
There was no mandatory requirement for the Council to carry out a local consultation with the public or people currently using the scheme. However, DfT carried out a national consultation on the changes in 2011. Many other local authorities have already implemented the £10 charge suggested by the Government.
An equality impact assessment has been completed (and published here: http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=27906). The Council’s view was that a local consultation would not be meaningful or cost-effective.
How the change will happen
People who have already applied, or make an application by 7 May 2013 will be charged the old £2 rate; those making an application from 8 May 2013 onwards will be charged £10. This is the fairest way to apply the change. They will be advised of the new charge when they contact the Council to make an application or for a renewal. This could be by phone, at a One Stop Shop or online.
A communications plan has been prepared to make sure this briefing is shared with all partner organisations which work with people who might be eligible for a Blue Badge.
There will be a review each quarter to check that the increased charge isn’t having an adverse effect on the numbers of applicants.
While the initial aim is for the scheme to break even again, there remains a risk that future inflationary pressures mean it operates at a loss, if the Government does not allow local authorities to increase it again in the future.
To find out more about the Blue Badge scheme in Cornwall, visit www.cornwall.gov.uk/bluebadge. For information from the Department for Transport, which is responsible for the scheme, visit www.dft.gov.uk/topics/access/blue-badge.