The Welsh Government have sent a team into Swansea Council to review the large number of blue badge refusals by that authority.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black has previously revealed that out of 5,618 applications in 2014, Swansea Council refused 1,135 or 21%, three times higher than any other council in Wales. Rhondda Cynon Taf, which is of comparable size received 7,117 applications and refused 372 or 5% of them. Of the other councils who responded to Mr. Black’s survey, the Vale of Glamorgan refused 8% of the blue badge applications they received, Monmouthshire 3%, Flintshire 7%, Newport 3% and Anglesey 1.3%.
In a question time session on Wednesday, Mr. Black asked the Economy Minister whether she was concerned by the way that Swansea are handling blue badge applications. In response she revealed that she has sent in an expert team to review their administration of the blue badge scheme. She expects a report from this team before Easter after which she is going to consider how the scheme will be operated in future.
Commenting on the Minister’s revelation, Mr. Black said: "As a regional Assembly Member my caseload continues to be dominated by complaints about the way that this blue badge scheme is operating. I work with four councils on this issue and Swansea is by far the most difficult. We have had many cases where the rules say that a blue badge should be issued but Swansea Council have refused it.
"This is borne out by the Minister’s own concerns about councils refusing badges for people with cognitive disorders, which as she points out in her response to me, the regulations provide for blue badges to be issued in these cases. I have also had experience of Swansea Council submitting applicants to intrusive and unnecessary questions and in one case point blank refusing an applicant who later qualified for higher rate personal independence payments.
"I very much welcome the Minister’s review of blue badge refusals and hope that it will lead to a better understanding by local councils of the rules under which they should be issued."
Notes to Editors:This is the record from the Assembly Plenary session on Wednesday 18th March:
8. Will the Minister make a statement on any proposed changes to the blue badge scheme?
Further to my recent letter to Members to update them, my officials are conducting a review of the scheme’s current delivery methods, informed by practice in other parts of the UK. I’d hoped to provide a further update more quickly than this, but there is now extensive work going on in some local authority areas.
Thank you for that answer, Minister. You’ll know, of course, that I have particular concerns about Swansea, which has many, many times more refusals than any other local authority in Wales. They continue to insist that the reason for that is they’re the only ones doing it properly. Given the experience you’ve had and the correspondence you’ve had in terms of the experience in Swansea and elsewhere, have you given any consideration as to whether local authorities are fit to continue to deliver this service?
I’m currently awaiting a report back from the expert group that’s gone into Swansea. The expert group have actually asked for additional time to look at some of the issues around Swansea, but I hope that I will have a report from them before the Easter recess. I will then begin some consideration of how the scheme should be operated in the future, whether the scheme is all right—because there have been issues around local authorities, particularly on cognitive behaviour, and we are now having a plethora of cases emerging about how they’re not, perhaps, utilising the regulations and the work that we’ve undertaken in the correct manner. But I can assure Members that I am terribly concerned about the level of correspondence I’m having on this and the administration of the scheme.