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No reprieve for Blue Badge holders

July 21, 2010 7:00 AM
Blue badge not accepted here

Hopes of safer parking for Blue Badge holders resulted in charges instead

Turning their usual blind eyes and deaf ears to outraged public opinion, Epsom & Ewell's ruling Residents Party have succeeded in forcing through their divisive policy of charging disabled "Blue Badge" holders in all borough council car parks by just 2 votes.

The three political parties were united in their opposition to confirming the council's proposed Traffic Order and were supported by Independent Cllr Christine Howells, who has resigned from the ruling group in protest over this issue. Three RA councillors abstained whilst others did not attend the meeting, but no member of the RA group broke ranks and voted against, despite warnings that this may well cost them their seats in next year's council elections.

In two "recorded votes" charging was confirmed and is expected to start from 1st August. The voting was 16 for and 14 against and the names of councillors voting for and against the scheme will appear in the minutes for residents to see.

It emerged that ironically the origin of the charges is the long-standing issue of safety in the Ashley Centre car park, where in order to claim free parking the disabled person, not their driver, has to visit the parking office in person. This necessitates negotiating the stream of traffic entering and leaving the car park. Dropping all concessions, as initially proposed, would have eliminated the problem. However in the face of public anger, Blue Badge holders were given an extra hour's parking, but to claim it they will need to visit the parking office as before.

In a further vote, a proposal by Cllr Colin Taylor to defer charging until this safety issue has been resolved was even more narrowly defeated by 15 to 14, with again the names of councillors voting for and against being recorded.

Cllr Taylor said afterwards: "The safety issue is so bad that people would rather pay than run the gauntlet of crossing the traffic stream on foot, or in a wheelchair. It may never be solved unless the council is willing to move the parking office to a safer location. It seems that this is still being resisted because of the cost."

"How ironic that despite forcing this vulnerable group of people to pay for modifications to payment machines to collect their money, the safety issue which started the debate is now being treated as secondary".

"We have yet to find out how many Blue Badge holders will now park on yellow lines instead of in car parks or how much trade the borough will lose because of RA party obstinacy. What we do know is that former RA voters will not support the same council candidates again."