More than 250 blue badges were lost or stolen in the past 12 months in Nottinghamshire but the figure could be higher after work by the enforcement team was impacted by the pandemic and car parking charges were waived.
The majority of the badges, issued to disabled people to allow them to park in designated spaces, were lost (268) and a further 19 were stolen, according to a report to the county council’s governance and ethics committee.
But the committee heard that there was ongoing work to ensure vigilance in identifying suspicious applications for badges, including repeated claims of badges being lost; liaison with Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire police compliance and fraud officer to share intelligence of badge misuse and participation in the National Fraud Initiative to identify and cancel active badges linked to deceased badge holders.
And a council officer agreed that a councillor’s suggestion for a whistleblowing page online to report misuse could be a good idea.
Gareth Johnson, county council parking and enforcement manager, said there are 50,000 blue badges in Nottinghamshire, including in Nottingham City.
He said that periodically officers check badges are being used by the holder by calling them at home if they see they are in use in a car park. If the person is at home, the officer issues a fixed penalty notice because clearly the badge is being used fraudulently by someone else.
Mr Johnson: “Typically on a blue badge day, we catch about 5% of people – about 1 in 20 – and they are mainly being misused by a relative. We also issue warning letters to people but I don’t believe we have a major problem in what is largely a rural county.”
Councillor Richard Butler, representing Cotgrave, said it was good to see the number of people misusing blue badges “is relatively low”.
He added: “People find the misuse of blue badges really annoying. If someone wanted to shop a person down the road using one, would we we take any notice of that sort of information?”
Mr Johnson said that Nottinghamshire County Council does not have whistleblowing page online but added: “Some councils do and I think it would be a reasonable idea to set up a whistleblower-type page.”
The report noted that in addition to blue badge fraud and daily cyber security attacks, there were 61 cases of potential fraud identified in 2020-21 at a potential cost of £369,793.
They included direct payments fraud in adult social care, the sale of Department for Education laptops for vulnerable children sold by the parents and misuse of a school purchase card. In all cases internal council controls picked up the potential fraud and were stopped.
In total, the council has 29 employees involved in fraud investigation, costing £180,607 in employee time and also one professionally accredited fraud specialist.