The theft of Blue Badges used by disabled motorists in England has risen by 45 per cent in the past 12 months and is up sixfold since 2013, councils warn today.
The number of people caught abusing the scheme has more than doubled with 1,215 successful council prosecutions in 2018 – up from 535 in 2014.
More than two million disabled people use Blue Badges for parking in pay and display bays and for up to three hours on yellow lines. In London, badge holders are exempt from the congestion charge saving them around £2,500 a year.
The Local Government Association, representing 370 councils across England and Wales, said figures out today show thefts of Blue Badges went up from 2,921 in 2017 to 4,246 in 2018 - a rise of 45 per cent.
This increase marks a rise in thefts for the fifth year running with 656 recorded in 2013. It mean that this year’s figures are more than six times higher than they were five years ago.
The LGA said councils continue to crackdown on dishonest motorists by prosecuting offenders and seizing Blue Badges suspected of being used illegally.
Fraudsters have increasingly been prosecuted by councils in the past year for using stolen or lost badges and using relatives’ badges in order to scam free parking to go shopping or travel to work.
Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Transport spokesman, said:
“Illegally using a Blue Badge is not a victimless crime. For disabled people, Blue Badges are a vital lifeline that helps them get out and about to visit shops or family and friends. Callous thieves and unscrupulous fraudsters using them illegally are robbing disabled people of this independence.
"Blue Badge theft is clearly a soaring crime and it is alarming that incidents have risen by more than 45 per cent in the past year alone.
"Despite limited resources, councils continue to work hard to crackdown on this growing crime. More Blue Badge fraudsters than ever are being brought to justice by councils who will come down hard on drivers illegally using them.
"It is important to catch these criminals in the act. To help councils win the fight against Blue Badge fraud, residents must keep tipping us off about people they suspect are illegally using a badge, bearing in mind people’s need for a badge might not be obvious.”
1. A Blue Badge can only be used in a vehicle when it is being driven or used to transport the Blue Badge holder. Misuse of a Blue Badge is a criminal offence under the Road Traffic Act 1984. The maximum fine on conviction is £1,000.
2. The latest Blue Badge fraud prosecution and theft figures are available from the Department for Transport. .