London Borough of Camden
Because of its central location and attractive facilities Camden is a magnet for motorists and faces daily the challenges presented by high demand for parking spaces from both residents and visitors.
With a diverse population and workforce, Camden has been at the cutting edge of service delivery for many years, being one of the first councils to achieve Beacon status. The Parking Services Team in the borough has a high reputation and has been undertaking specific activities to counter Blue Badge fraud since 2000. Paul Slowey from 2000 to 2004.
During one three-month period, over a dozen successful prosecutions were mounted and 104 misused, fake or stolen badges recovered. Paul Slowey trained over 100 on-street staff, formed a very close professional relationship with the police and set up the blue badge department working with the internal audit, communications, and legal teams.
London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham
This is an inner London borough which is subject to high traffic and parking pressures requiring active enforcement to maintain both economic viability and residents’ quality of life.
Following a competitive tender process BBFI commenced investigation and case preparation services to the borough in May 2009. On this contract the council uses an in-house legal team for prosecution.
In the first six months of the operation 47 Badges were seized, a rate of almost two per week. At the time of writing over 40 summonses have been issued and thousands of pounds worth of fines and costs levied on those found guilty.
A strong working relationship has been formed with the CEOs in the in-house enforcement team who have authorised the removal of over 35 vehicles to the pound. BBFI also work closely with the Metropolitan Police Service, removal contractors, and the council’s audit and legal teams to ensure a high level of efficiency and success.
Activity takes place on the streets for four days in each week, with some of these being at weekends to cover the three football grounds in the borough. This approach keeps down costs whilst maintaining effectiveness.
The project has strong political support, with Councillor Nicholas Botterill, Cabinet Member for the Environment saying:
“Our disabled residents need Blue Badge parking to allow them to get out and about yet some selfish individuals are trying to fiddle the system to get free parking.” Amanda Roles, from Hammersmith & Fulham Mencap, added: “Many disabled people and parents of disabled children get angry to see someone misusing a Blue Badge or parking illegally in a space reserved for disabled people. It is extremely selfish and inconsiderate. Non disabled people don’t realise how doing everyday normal tasks is so much harder for someone with a disability.”
London Borough of Enfield
This is a busy outer London borough which has a high profile and successful anti-fraud operation which both deters cheats and generates positive publicity for the council.
It utilises BBFI for the delivery of the entire operation, including prosecution, and between commencement of operations in June 2009 and the end of the year 68 Badges were seized in joint operations with the police. Follow-up actions have included formal interviews, caution letters, and prosecution in court for the most serious cases.
Seventy Civil Enforcement Officers and On Board Civil Enforcement Officers have been trained in identifying badges and receive additional coaching on a monthly basis. Training has also been gives to officers in the MPS Safer Neighbourhood Teams who support the operation.
The project has widespread local support and has been endorsed by both Enfield Disability Action and Age Concern. It has also been accepted as an example of partnership working and innovation for the 2010 British Parking Awards.
London Borough of Croydon
Although an outer borough, Croydon is a significant commercial centre in its own right which draws motorists from a large hinterland.
BBFI has been carrying out an operation to establish the scale and severity of the misuse of blue badges being used to park in the town centre. In a one-week joint operation with the local police, 11 Badges were seized, of which three were forged and one was in the name of a woman who had died. Council employees have also been trained by BBFI in the legislation surrounding the misuse of badges, and how to spot fakes, and are excited by this initiative and keen to get more involved.
The council takes the misuse of the privileges allowed to genuinely disabled people very seriously and will continue enforcement to ensure that only genuinely disabled people use badges in the Borough.
Gloucestershire County Council
Gloucestershire is a largely rural county in South West England with important centres for commerce and tourism.
BBFI is engaged in a live pilot across the county and in a recent operation over six days in Cheltenham ten motorists were found to be fraudulently misusing Blue Badges. This represented some 13% of the Badges checked.
One was using a commercially produced forgery whilst four others were using Badges issued by London boroughs while the badge holder was in London. Another was still in use eighteen months after its expiry and two years after the holder had died. As a result of this exercise seven summonses have been issued.
BBFI is carrying out investigation and case preparation and the county’s legal team is responsible for the legal work. Other stakeholders involved include the local police, parking teams at county and district level, and the County Council’s badge issuing team who sit within Social Services. Disability lobby groups were consulted prior to the initiative and were very keen to see something done to combat this antisocial crime.
“Paul has a detailed knowledge of Council procedures and is down to earth and culturally aware… I would have no hesitation in recommending Paul to carry out this type of operation in the future.”
“BBFI have the infrastructure, specialist staff and knowledge to start a fraud team and effectively run it.”
“In the first six months BBFI investigated 100 cases and closed 53. The housing officers in partnership with BBFI have recovered the keys to or issued Notices to Quit (NTQs) in eleven cases and 47 are open and under investigation. Some of the open investigation cases are under long-term surveillance. This equates to a property recovered or NTQ issued every seven days worked.”
“Total costs spent on the BBFI services to date total £25k. Taking into account the 3 cases where RTB applications were withdrawn and assets retained in our stock as well as three cases where vacant possession was gained without costs of legal action we estimate the savings to the housing association to be upwards of £300k”
“I am proud of what we have achieved so far with the continued help of BBFI.”
“Through the partnership our staff are being upskilled to enable them to carry out more complex investigations.”
“We did not have the resources or the experience to tackle such a far reaching problem and had no idea where to start. We decided to hire professionals, BBFI on a trial basis which became more permanent.”
“As a result of 31 investigations the right to buy team working with BBFI have uncovered fraudulent application and housing benefit fraud. Five applications have been withdrawn, each of which had a potential discount of over £100k. Of the 31 applications investigated nine have completed the intended home ownership and have purchased their homes and 17 are still under investigation.”