CONTROVERSIAL plans to charge disabled drivers to park in Boston’s car parks have been approved by Boston Borough Council, despite claims the move is discriminatory and could lead to a legal challenge.
Calls for a decision on the charges to be delayed for further investigation fell on deaf ears at last week’s full council meeting, as a recommendation to approve the matter was approved by a majority.
The authority has been warned it may now face problems under the Equalities Act, as many believe it is unfair to charge disabled people to park in the same way as able-bodied drivers.
Labour councillor Paul Kenny called for the matter to be taken back for discussion before it was passed.
He added: “I really do believe we have to go and think about this and have a look at our responsibilities under the Equalities Act.
“One of the problems is we have not had a debate of the complex issues of it. We have had a very shallow debate. Before we make a decision we should have an informed debate.”
Coun Kenny said some parking meters may be inaccessible for disabled people, but a council spokesman said all machines had been checked and were easily usable for those who are less able.
However, a disabled charity has also warned that the council may face legal challenges, as the sheer fact of introducing charges could be seen as discriminatory.
Disabled Motoring UK has helped force several councils to rethink plans to enforce disabled charges after it supported member.
Helen Dolphin, director of policy and campaigns for the charity, said: “The best solution is to allow all Blue Badge holders three hours parking free of charge as it stops people automatically migrating onto the roads, where they can park on yellow lines, which is not as safe for unloading wheelchairs and does not help congestion.”
As a concession to disabled drivers, the council said it will allow them 30 minutes extra time on the tariff they have paid for.
The introduction of these charges is part of a raft of parking measures approved by councillors in the 2012/13 budget. The authority has estimated the changes will save around £93,000 this year and £112,000 in subsequent years as it looks to cope with Government cuts.
Coun Derek Richmond, portfolio holder for car parks, believes the charges, in force from April, are fair for everyone.
He said: “To say we should discriminate against the people that are paying to park, I think is totally wrong.”
l For more on the budget turn to page five.