Daughter’s fury over £20 blue badge fee

THE daughter of a disabled Milngavie pensioner has slammed East Dunbartonshire Council for charging her dad a £20 fee to renew his parking badge.

Sandra Darwish, from Balfron, was horrified when her 88-year-old father, who asked not to be named, was asked for the first time to pay an administration fee in Kirkintilloch social work department when he was applying for a new blue badge.

She said: “I feel this is hitting the most vulnerable people in society.

“My dad was able to pay but what if there are people who can’t afford it? It might be a choice between paying a gas bill or eating that week.”

Sandra’s dad has a neurological condition which affects his balance and limits how far he can walk - he can suddenly fall if he loses his balance and he wears a support structure on his legs to help him.

He also didn’t realise it would take between four to six weeks for a new badge to arrive and using his old one in the meantime would be an offence.

John Simmons, director of community services, said: “East Dunbartonshire Council allocates or renews on average 1,800 blue badges per year and a national contract has been awarded for their production across Scotland.

“A comparative exercise was undertaken with other local authorities and found that of the 32 councils in Scotland, 22 charge a £20 administration fee for the new blue badge, including two of East Dunbartonshire’s bordering local authorities.

“This charge was introduced at the beginning of the year following the blue badge reform programme, set out by the Scottish Government, and will apply to new applications and for renewal and replacement badges when a badge has been lost or stolen. “

A spokesperson for Age Scotland said: “This incident reflects a Scotland-wide trend for services previously available to older people at low or no cost to see sharp increases in price.

“Of course East Dunbartonshire Council has difficult budgeting choices to make, but off-loading cuts onto older people is short sighted.

“Those who are on low fixed incomes, and who have been hit heavily by rising food and fuel costs, are likely to start withdrawing from services and become increasingly cut off from the community.”