March 16, 2011 • 4:58 pm

“According to yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, Ministers think that as many as half of all blue badges could be going to people who don’t need them. If so, that is an extraordinary statistic.” Boris Johnson, Telegraph, March 2011.

When Mayor of London Boris Johnson used his Daily Telegraph column to comment on statistics suggesting that as many as half of all holders of disabled parking ‘blue badges’, Full Fact reader John McArdle got in touch to query the figure.

Referring to the previous day’s Telegraph article, which reports that ministers estimate that around half of the 2.5 million users of blue badges for disabled parking are not really entitled to the privileges they bestow, Mr Johnson called the finding ‘extraordinary’. The original article goes on to say that “able-bodied drivers are cheating taxpayers out of £14.7 million a year in this way”.

Currently badges are granted automatically to those who are on certain disability benefits, receive a war pensioner’s mobility allowance or who are registered blind and driven by a carer. Others can apply on health grounds.

Our factcheck confirms the figure of £14.7 million annual cost to Local Authorities, with the data coming from the National Fraud Authority 2010 Annual Fraud Indicator estimates. However, we have so far not found any ground to suppose that half of all cases are fraudulent.

The more recent 2011 Annual Fraud Indicator does however give a much more in-depth report on the problem of blue badge fraud. They come to an estimate of half a million misused blue badges, costing Local Authorities £46 million in lost parking revenue.

The report goes on to say that: “According to BBFI, misuse of this scheme varies from four per cent to 70 per cent depending on the location of use, with an average of 20 per cent of all blue badges in circulation being misused in some way. In busy retail areas the figure is 40 to 60 per cent misuse.”

This conclusion is supported by data provided by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Blue Badge Fraud Investigation Limited (BBFI).

We have contacted the National Fraud Authority to probe the 50 per cent figure in greater depth, but they have not yet been able to give us any clue as to its provenance. As it stands, the best available figure stands closer to the 20 per cent mark

[UPDATE: We have now heard back from the National Fraud Authority. They confirmed their report's 20 per cent figure, saying: "This estimate was calculated using an expert opinion (from Blue Badge Fraud Investigations) that on average 20 per cent of blue badges are being misused. The same expert has acknowledged that the misuse of blue badges varies, depending on location, between four and 70 per cent."]

However, the wording in this factcheck is important, as the quoted Ministers in the Telegraph article do not refer specifically to the number of fraud cases, but to those ‘entitled’ to badges; a much looser category that is harder to factcheck. Although we cannot confirm or reject the validity of their 50 per cent figure, it is clear from the 2011 Annual Fraud Indicator estimate of half a million wrongly held badges, that fraud is a big problem. 

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