Cornwall Council has attracted enormous criticism today after it was revealed that they were charging disabled motorists £3800 to have a single disabled parking bay painted on the road outside their house.
Most other councils across the country only charge disabled people only a tiny fee for the service, and some councils do not charge a fee at all.
The most expensive council after Cornwall, Leicestershire, charges £100 for an accessible parking bay outside a property, whilst Plymouth City Council, just across the River Tamar from Cornwall, charges only around £40.
Deb Race, from St Austell in Cornwall, who has Multiple Sclerosis says was forced to decline a disabled parking bay after learning about the extortionate charge, telling the BBC that:
Just carrying anything up the road from the car is really difficult and each step is painful.
To find nearly £4,000 and then have a lottery still as to whether I could park outside my house was totally prohibitive. It didn’t seem fair.
Amid mounting criticism, Cornwall Council met to discuss a motion tabled by Councillor Richard Pears demanding;
That Cornwall Council urgently reviews its policy of charging disabled people £3,000 to have a disabled space installed near to their accommodation. This is to fall in line with other authorities around the country, who charge either a notional payment to the applicant, or nothing at all.
The price of disabled motoring.
It’s a simple fact. Many disabled people need to be able to park their cars immediately outside their homes. It can be the difference between keeping jobs and losing them, as jobs for disabled people aren’t exactly thick on the ground to start with.
Cars are also vital for medical appointments and other essential parts of daily life. In short, a car is often a disabled person’s lifeline. They’re often essential for daily living and the difference between being mobile and housebound.
The charges, not previously widely-reported, have caused outrage. Widely viewed as an unfair tax on the disabled, the charges have drawn enormous criticism, especially when so much larger than anywhere else.
To give some perspective, the monthly higher rate of Personal Independence payment (PIP) is just £58 per week. Even if a claimant gets that higher rate they get around £230 every four weeks (around £3000 per year) making affording an accessible parking space unlikely. The lower mobility rate of PIP is only £22 a week (a little over £1000 per year), making it unaffordable full stop.
The motion calls for an urgent review rather than actually removing the ridiculous fee for so simple a service. It doesn’t remove the charge, but merely demands the council ‘urgently review’ whether it should continue.
In today’s supposedly more enlightened, fairer world this shouldn’t even be a question. That it still is is something Truro’s Tory MP and Minister for the Disabled, Sarah Newton, should be obliged to account for.
Given Newton’s voting record on disability and welfare issues, however, few will be holding their breath.
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