A former soldier who lost a leg in Afghanistan has told of how he was denied a Blue Badge – an experience which later inspired him to become a councillor.
Councilor Johno Lee had multiple disabled parking Blue Badge applications turned down by Nottinghamshire County Council in 2010.
Cllr Lee told Nottinghamshire Live he racked up parking fines worth over £1,000 after parking in disabled bays as he was wheelchair-bound at the time and could not walk long distances.
Despite this, he later chose to join the authority as a Conservative member – and said he is “delighted” that the council is now “being rigorous in our approach to tackling Blue Badge fraud”.
It comes after Nottinghamshire County Council said it is working proactively to “respond to the threat of Blue Badge Fraud”.
New figures show the authority has withdrawn or canceled 480 Blue Badges in the last two years (2020-2022). The issue was discussed during the governance and ethics committee at the authority on Wednesday, January 4, which Cllr Lee is the vice-chair of.
People who have disabilities can apply for Blue Badges which usually allow free parking and access to spaces closer to the destination. Blue Badges cannot be given to family or friends.
Councilor Lee (Con) spoke about his experience after he was denied a Blue Badge after originally being injured in a minefield explosion in 2007. He said: “My application for a Blue Badge was rejected by the council.
“I got told on the phone that I was rejected because I would get better. The comment I made back was ‘do you think my leg is going to grow back?’
“I challenged the decision and my story went in the national press and as far as the Hong Kong Times. Within 24 hours I got a Blue Badge through the door.”
He added that, after the experience, he wanted to get involved with politics to “make a change”. He said: “The amount of disabled people in politics is really low. I joined the Conservative Party because if it wasn’t for the Conservative councilors supporting me when I was injured, I might not be here now.”
Cllr Lee added that he has previously been asked by individuals in supermarket car parks why he has parked in a disabled space.
He added: “On more than one occasion I’ve been at Waitrose where people will ask me if I am disabled and if I should be parking in a Blue Badge place. We need to take into consideration that not everyone with a blue badge will look disabled.
“The council needs to take action to get rid of illegal badges that are taking away precious car parking spaces from the people who actually need them. Of course, there will be cases which slip through the net but the majority of people who genuinely do require a Blue Badge meet the strict criteria and are deserving of them.”
The County Council says in the last two years Blue Badge fraud was worth around £276,000. Council papers describe how it is planning an audit of the notification process which tells relatives to notify government organizations of someone’s death under the ‘tell it once’ process.
The recent figures which form part of the National Fraud Initiative mark a decrease in withdrawn Blue Badges in previous years. From 2018 to 2020, 576 badges were withdrawn or cancelled.
Chair of the meeting Philip Owen (Con) added: “I think this report demonstrates we are doing something about it with the number of blue badges that we’ve actually taken back. If you know of people who are using it fraudulently then let us know.”