South West Wales

Carmarthenshire blue badge holders to pay for parking

Controversial plans to charge blue badge holders for car parking have been agreed by councillors in Carmarthenshire.

It means disabled drivers will have to pay the same as other motorists for using council-run car parks from January.

Officers said it was only fair everyone pays and the policy change is expected to raise £100,000 in three years.

Eight thousand people in the county could be affected.

Currently, they can park in any council-run car park in Carmarthenshire for up to three hours for free.

A proposal before the council's executive board recommended the "equalisation" of parking charges from 1 January, and councillors gave their support.

The proposal will now go to a 21-day public consultation before it goes to the full council for a final decision.

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

Last week 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, called it an additional tax on disability, adding he was angry its members had not been consulted.

"Hard won"

"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."

Community councillor Robin Burn, who has a badge to drive his 19-year-old autistic daughter, wrote 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 proposal.

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."

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