A THREAT of legal action has been tabled against Southampton City Council, as civic chiefs are set to push through new laws to bill disabled motorists the same as those who aren’t.

Forming part of the authority’s budget, the plans will bring off-street car parking charges for blue badge owners to the same rate as other motorists.

Currently, specific spaces are allocated to blue badge holders within some city council-owned car parks, which holders are allowed to park for free in for an unlimited amount of time. They can also park for free in any space if these areas are unavailable.

These specific spaces, the council says, will still be kept for use by badge owners only, but they will now be charged – as they currently are in the city’s multi-storey car parks.

However, members of the Spectrum CIL Access Group say this goes against the Equality Act 2010, as introducing a uniform charge could potentially penalise disabled motorists, as they “usually take a lot longer to do their shopping”, meaning they will end up paying more.

This they say – as does the city’s Conservative group, is because for many with a disability the issue arises due to mobility and potentially medical conditions that mean they take longer to complete similar tasks to those whom are not disabled.

On-street parking will be unaffected by the change, which the council says mitigates its proposals. Blue badge holders can also park on double-yellow lines for up to three hours.

However, the charity says that the authority may face legal action if the plans are approved next Wednesday (Feb 20).

In a letter to the council, Spectrum CIL Access Group chairperson Geoff Wilkinson said: “I certainly agree that disabled people should be treated equally and I, on behalf of Spectrum, don’t believe that just because you’re disabled you can’t afford to pay for your parking.

“But we don’t believe that that charging blue badge holders and non–disabled people is equal.

“If councillors vote in introducing these charges, the city council could face legal action taken against them under the Equality Act 2010.”

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he added: “The cabinet member concerned has got a very, very difficult job. But I hope and trust that common sense will prevail.”

Conservative transport spokesperson councillor Steven Galton has also called on Labour to scrap its plans.

He said: “Blue badge holders can already park for free on street and these new Labour taxes could lead to more congestion in our city if blue badge holders spend more time looking for a suitable on street space.

“It is also discriminatory to charge someone living with a disability the same amount as someone without a disability. Living with a disability means everyday tasks may be harder to do or take longer to complete.

“By equally charging you aren’t recognising this difference.”

The call has also been back by national charity Disabled Motoring UK.

A spokesperson said: “DMUK believes that Blue Badge holders should receive the same concession in off-street car parks as the do on-street.

“If Southampton City Council introduces these charges, blue badge holders may be inclined to park on-street on single or double yellow lines which puts them in a more vulnerable environment when trying to park and could have negative consequences for traffic flow in the city.

“Local authorities also need to do more to make sure that the blue badge scheme is enforced correctly to ensure that vital disabled parking bays, which are imperative to disabled peoples independence, are only used by genuine blue badge holders.”

The plans will go before councillors at Full Council on Wednesday February 20. The meeting will be held at 2pm in the Civic Centre.