Clampdown in Leeds highlights blue badge abuse
More than half the blue badges issued to disabled drivers in Leeds are being abused or misused, a city council investigation suggests.
A pilot enforcement scheme which began in January has so far checked 134 badges and found that 78 (58%) were being wrongfully used.
Penalty charges of £25 to £35 have been introduced but nobody has yet been prosecuted or had a badge withdrawn.
Leeds city councillor Tom Murray said: "Abuse of this system is unforgivable."
A council statement said: "Over recent years, abuse and misuse of the system has become apparent and the council is developing new strategies and initiatives to address the issue.
"It has become clear that many offences are related to lack of understanding of the rights and responsibilities of using a badge.
"The enforcement scheme is continuing and feedback has been extremely positive from blue badge holders pleased to hear that action is being taken against abuse of the system."
The blue badge scheme, introduced in the 1970s, allows disabled people to park in marked bays without having to pay parking charges.
It is a criminal offence for the badge to be used by anyone other than the registered holder and abusers face a fine of up to £1,000.
Allowing wrongful use of a blue badge is also an offence and badges can be withdrawn if illegally used by other people.
Mr Murray, the council's executive board member for parking services, said: "Parking spaces for disabled drivers are all over the city and, in my observation, are largely respected.
"However, the message from this scheme is clear - blue badges are meant to help disabled people and are not free parking passes for able-bodied drivers.
"While there are clearly cases where people have mistakenly used them incorrectly, where we find persistent or fraudulent use of a blue badge we will take it away and may even be forced to prosecute."