A disabled man says he is prepared to take Sunderland City Council to court in a bid to get the authority to prosecute drivers who misuse Blue Badge permits - after he discovered that it has not pursued one person over the offence in the past year.
David Harrison, 56, has had a blue badge ever since suffering a workplace accident more than 20 years ago.
He says he sees numerous instances each week of drivers wrongly using the permits which are often held by relatives, something which he says is unfair and reduces the number of spaces available for badge holders themselves.
After submitting a Freedom of Information request to Sunderland City Council, Mr Harrison said he was shocked to find that the authority has not prosecuted one single person over the act of misusing a badge in the past 12 months.
The authority has also not confiscated any badges from holders because of misuse.
Council bosses say that all reports about possible blue badge misuse are taken “very seriously” and enforcement officers are instructed to hand out penalties whenever they see fit.
By contrast, neighbouring city Newcastle has prosecuted 88 people for misuse of the permits in the past year.
Mr Harrison, of Fordland Place, Pallion, said: “Newcastle, which is actually a smaller city than Sunderland, has policies and systems in place to deal with this so why can’t we?
“A blue badge belongs to the person, not the car, but you get a instances where a man in his 30s is parking the car in a disabled bay, but the person identified on the badge is a woman in her 70s who is their aunt or whoever.
“I don’t think it’s right at all.”
According to Government guidlines, badge holders “must not allow other people to use the badge” and “should not use the badge to allow non-disabled people to take advantage of the benefits while the badge holder sits in the car.”
Although it is not illegal for a badge holder, or a non-disabled person waiting for the badge holder to return, to remain in the vehicle while the blue badge is displayed, consideration should be given to using a car park wherever possible
It is a criminal offence for non-disabled people to use a blue badge, with the punishment a fine of up to £1,000.
Mr Harrison now says he is planning to take Sunderland City Council to court under the Disability Discrimination Act to force the council do more to catch those abusing the scheme and bring them to justice.
“I’m doing this because they are refusing to do anything about the problem,” said Mr Harrison, who was injured 23 years ago when he fell from a roof onto a concrete floor after a safety barrier collapsed.
“The people that view the badges are the parking wardens who are already employed by the council, so it wouldn’t mean any extra jobs would have to be created.
“I think this is a worldwide issue and a massive problem in this town.
“Sunderland by its very nature is bigger than Newcastle so it should be an even bigger problem, yet they haven’t taken a badge from anyone.”
Sunderland City Council portfolio holder for city services, Coun Michael Mordey, said: “We are aware of Mr Harrison’s concerns which our staff have addressed with him at great length and in great detail.
“While reports of abuse of the Blue Badge system are few, all the reports that are made are taken very seriously and thoroughly investigated with our parking enforcement officers instructed to impose penalty charge notices whenever an abuse of the badge is discovered.
“Repeated abuse of a badge will result in the badge being revoked.
“All local authorities take their own approach in dealing with this issue, and in accordance with guidance Sunderland has developed a range of tools that are both preventative and enforcing that we believe are appropriate.”