Blue badge fee rise ‘hitting vulnerable’

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DISABLED motorists in Sheffield are facing a five-fold increase in the administration fee for blue badges in a move which has been condemned for ‘targeting a vulnerable group’.

People with mobility problems who are eligible for the passes - an estimated two-thirds of whom are pensioners - are charged a fee when they receive the badges for the first time, and then for renewal every three years.

At a meeting next Wednesday, Sheffield Council’s ruling cabinet is set to agree an increase in the fee from £2 to £10, recouping an additional £240,000 a year.

But the move has been attacked by Sheffield Pensioners’ Action Group.

Secretary, Jacqueline Milner, said: “It’s a terrific price jump and I would like the council to explain why it is necessary. They have to make money out of some things but I think it’s wrong to target a vulnerable group.

“£10 might not seem a lot to some people but to a pensioner on a £72 a week basic pension it is a hell of a lot of money.”

Opposition Lib Dem councillors have also criticised the change, to be implemented on January 1.

Group leader, Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, said: “Labour increasing this fee will see around £240,000 collected from some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“It beggars belief that Labour councillors can agree this when at the same time they are spending millions on projects like creating new posh flats at Park Hill.”

Julie Bullen, of Sheffield Council’s resources department, said: “From January 1, reforms of the blue badge scheme come into force and the badges will be produced by a national service.

“The council will be charged an extra £4.60 for each badge.

“Total administration costs at present are £10.95 per badge. “The current administration fee for a blue badge has not changed for 30 years.

“Increasing the charge will enable us to cover the cost of providing the service.”

Coun Bryan Lodge, Sheffield Council deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “We have a duty to review every part of the council’s finances.

“It is unfortunate we need to increase the fees, but we believe the £10 fee for a three year permit still represents very good value.”

Rotherham Council is yet decided whether to increase its blue badge costs.