South West Wales

Blue badge holders in Carmarthenshire face car park fee

Blue badge parking card
Image caption The council issued 6,000 blue badges in Carmarthenshire last year

A row has broken out over plans to charge blue badge holders for car parking in Carmarthenshire.

It is proposed disabled drivers will pay the same as other motorists for using council-run car parks in January.

Officers say it is only fair everyone pays with the change expected to raise over £100,000 in three years.

A disabled access group said it should have been consulted. Badge holders have condemned the move along with Plaid Cymru politicians.

At present holders can park in any council-run car park in the county for up to three hours for free.

A proposal is going before the council's executive board on Monday recommending the "equalisation" of parking charges from 1 January.

The council says some authorities in Wales already charge blue badge holders while others are considering similar plans.

Carmarthenshire's head of transport Trevor Sage said: "Like all authorities in Wales the council is facing severe financial pressures and income from car parking charges will also help to protect other key services over the coming years."

Mike Thomas, treasurer of the Llanelli Disabled Access Group, said he was angry its members had not been consulted.

"Scaremongering"

"It's been a hard won concession over the years," he added.

"It's not an option for many disabled people to use public transport or to just pop into town for 20 minutes.

"This is just an additional tax on disability."

Community councillor Robin Burn, who has a badge to drive his 19-year-old autistic daughter, has written to every member of the executive board urging them to turn down the plan.

"I consider such a move to impose such charges as detrimental , ill considered, and not in the best interests of the most vulnerable disabled individuals."

Plaid politicians have condemned the plan.

The party's leader on the county council, Peter Hughes Griffiths, said: "Financial constraints are inevitable in the current economic climate but attacking the services on offer to disabled drivers is surely something that should be avoided."

Llanelli AM Helen Mary Jones added: "I have little doubt that increasing parking costs for blue badge holders will lead to disabled people unable to afford to use their cars."

But the council's executive board member for transport, Philip Hughes, accused her of "scaremongering."

"We are looking at ways of making car parking charges fairer for all in Carmarthenshire and have looked at what other authorities are doing," he said.

"Many drivers with disabilities receive a special mobility allowance which is intended to help address their transport costs, and the cost of parking in Carmarthenshire is considerably lower than other areas.

"Families on very low incomes have to pay for car parking and these moves are aimed at equalising parking charges for all."

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