HEATED exchanges were made at a meeting on the council’s disabled parking charge scheme for Boston.
At a meeting last Thursday, to discuss objections to the scheme, the council voted to go ahead with plans to charge Blue Badge holders to park – allowing 30 minutes extra on their tickets.
Despite appeals by the opposition councillors to do a U-turn, to extend the free time to one hour or defer the scheme, they were outvoted – 17 to 10.
Members of Boston Disability Forum were at the meeting in a silent protest, with plaquards of slogans including ‘do a U-turn’ and ‘democracy dead’. But they were prevented from formally speaking out at the meeting.
Explaining the scheme, Coun Derek Richmond, portfolio holder for the town centre, said: “Disabled people will not, through the introduction of the charges, be treated any less favourably than non-disabled people.
“There are sufficient car parks here to allow disabled drivers to park close to the town centre.”
But Labour councillor Paul Kenny said the 30 minute allowance was not enough: “You are not recognising that they need more time.”
He added: “We are giving you an opportunity to show some decency and understanding. Please back down and do a U-turn.”
Criticisms were made that the council had not consulted Boston Disability Forum, and had spoken to just one representative from Lincolnshire Association of Disabled People.
Speaking about feedback from the forum, which has said some of its members have difficulty accessing the ticket machines in town, Coun Alison Austin added: “There are differing degrees of disability but we must make sure we are catering for the most severely disadvantaged.”
Urging councillors to be ‘rational’ in their vote, Coun Mike Gilbert said: “This scheme is about equality. It is unequal to allow them not to pay.”
Coun Richmond added: “I firmly believe that what we are intending to do is fair.”
For a video of the silent protest click here