Havering Council apologises to disabled man left without blue badge for three months
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Havering Council has apologised to a disabled man after an ombudsman found it was at fault for failing to return his confiscated blue badge - leaving him without one for three months.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has published a report of its findings after investigating the case following a complaint from the man’s daughter.
It related to an incident in July 2019, when the man, referred to as Mr X, his daughter (Miss X) and her husband were in a car waiting for a disabled parking space.
A disability bus was loading passengers in the space, and Miss X said she and her father got out of the car while her husband waited for the space. He then parked in the space when it became free and displayed the badge.
But she said her husband told her ten minutes later that an enforcement officer had taken the badge, which Mr X had held for 15 years.
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Miss X said they approached the officer to explain the situation and asked where the blue badge was, where it would be taken and how they could get it back but claimed the officer refused to speak to her.
The report said: “Miss X said she then said she would make a complaint about him. She said he then turned around, walked back to the car and issued a parking charge notice (PCN).
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“Miss X said she felt the officer was provoking the situation and only issued the PCN after she said she would complain.”
The daughter complained to the council, saying the enforcement officer did not try to establish if her father was in the area.
She claimed the officer issued the fine 20 minutes after taking the blue badge, which she said was “unlawful” as the car had not been parked without displaying it.
The council responded to her and confirmed it was investigating her allegations, advising her to appeal the PCN, which she did successfully.
Miss X escalated her complaint and the council replied again a month later, saying that the enforcement officer had completed a report with his account.
He said he confiscated the blue badge as he saw a non-disabled person, Miss X’s husband, as the sole occupant of the car displaying a blue badge.
He said he retained it because Mr X was not present.
The ombudsman said: “The officer’s report said that a short while later he saw Miss X, her husband, and Mr X in the car, and returned the blue badge to Mr X.
“Miss X said this did not happen and the badge was never returned. The officer’s bodycam was turned off during the majority of the incident.”
Miss X said her father, who has dementia as well as physical disabilities, became “increasingly confused and distressed” by not having his badge, which he relied on when attending appointments and for resident parking, as the area where he lives uses parking permits.
She added that she contacted the issuing authority of the badge, which said it had not heard from Havering Council.
Her father was finally reissued with a badge in October after 13 weeks, during which Miss X said she paid for permits to park his car on his street and for parking tickets when she took him out.
She also incurred four further PCNs for parking in “convenient” locations for her father while he did not have his badge.
The ombudsman said that although the council followed procedure when seizing Mr X’s blue badge, it was at fault for not returning it to him or the issuing authority.
The report said: “I consider it more likely the enforcement officer retained Mr X’s blue badge and did not return it to him shortly after confiscating it.
“I have reached this view as there is no evidence other than the enforcement officer’s own notes that he returned the badge.
“If Mr X had received the badge back on the day, Miss X would not have pursued this issue with the council and then with the ombudsman.
“Miss X has experienced a financial injustice as a result of her father’s blue badge being retained. Due to Mr X’s vulnerable condition, he suffered avoidable inconvenience and distress.”
The ombudsman said the council agreed to apologise to Mr X for the inconvenience he endured and to pay him £200.
It also agreed to apologise to his daughter and her husband “for the way the situation was handled by the enforcement officer” and for the inconvenience of going through the complaints process.
It undertook to pay a total of £750 to Miss X for the cost of the parking permits and for the time and trouble of pursuing the complaint.
A Havering Council spokesperson said: “We accept the ombudsman’s findings and have since made suitable payment to the family.
“We would like to once again apologise to the family for any inconvenience and distress this has caused.”