Government defends online blue badge system
Claims that the new online application system for the disabled 'blue badge' parking permit is "riddled with technical problems" have been dismissed by the government.
The Department for Transport (Dft) has come under fire from a Labour MP, who warned of "chaos" since the Blue Badge Improvement Service went 'live' on New Year's Day. The new system allows all local authorities in England and Scotland to make a national online application form available to badge holders, from http://www.direct.gov.uk.
They are able to supply an electronically printed badge - much like a driving licence - rather than a handwritten version that was easy to forge. The new badges boast security features such as a unique hologram, digital photo and serial number, allowing parking attendants to check for genuine badges more easily through the windscreen.
All British local authorities are believed to be using the system, developing a common database of blue badge holders and badges on issue.
However, Luciana Berger, Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, told ministers: "Ministers said that it would save money and lead to easier renewals, but it has been riddled with technical problems.
"Applications have been delayed or sent to the wrong place, which has caused chaos and backlogs, and councils have been unable to deal with the problem, because the system is under the auspices of an IT contractor for which the Department for Transport is responsible."
The shake-up had already provoked criticism, because it involved a five-fold rise in the cost of the parking permits as the price of thwarting the forgers.
The badges now cost £10 in England - payable every three years - and up to £20 in Scotland, although councils have the power to charge less than the maximum.
But, in a written parliamentary answer, transport minister Norman Baker said: "The online application system came into force on January 1, 2012. The DFT has not received any complaints about the approximately 20,000 badges that have been printed and issued or the 2,000 applications that have been received through the online application form."
Baker added that 939,000 blue badges were issued in 2010-11 - up from 906,000 the previous year.