MP for Brecon and Radnorshire Fay Jones has said that the Liberal Democrats have ‘betrayed trust’ over blue badge parking charges.
Powys County Council has revealed plans that could see the introduction of parking charges for blue badge holders, a departure from their previous stance advocating for the rights and support of disabled individuals in the community.
Ms Jones said that the Liberal Democrats, while in opposition during the previous term of Council, alongside their Labour counterparts, vocally supported free parking for blue badge holders, recognising the essential nature of the scheme in promoting mobility and independence for disabled people.
Ms Jones said: “Cllr Jackie Charlton's response to concerns raised by me on behalf of constituents highlights the Council's precarious financial position and the challenges in balancing the budget since they took over the Council in 2022. While financial pressures are understood, prioritising revenue generation over the needs of disabled individuals raises serious questions about the Council's values and priorities. The suggestion that previous consultations indicated a minimal concern amongst disability groups about these charges is both misleading and dismissive of the genuine hardships this policy could impose.
“The Liberal Democrats' track record, including the reversal on promises to keep primary schools open, now followed by this proposal, paints a troubling picture of a party that shifts its policies and principles upon assuming power. This pattern of behaviour undermines trust and confidence, not only in the commitments they make but, in their ability, to govern with the community's best interests at heart.
“The introduction of parking charges for Blue Badge holders is not just a financial issue; it is a matter of social justice and equality. The Council’s proposed 'mitigation' of an extra hour's parking does little to address the broader implications of such a policy, which fundamentally discriminates against disabled individuals, making their access to local amenities more challenging and costly.
“I call on Cllr Jackie Charlton and the Liberal Democrat-led Powys County Council to reconsider this proposal, to engage in genuine and meaningful consultation with affected residents, and to find alternative solutions to their budgetary challenges that do not place an undue burden on disabled residents. The Council must uphold its duty to support and protect the rights of all its constituents, especially the most vulnerable.
“Yet again, the actions of the Council under the Liberal Democrat leadership stand in stark contrast to the values and promises they have campaigned on in the past. It is time for them to remember their commitments, listen to the voices of the community, and act in the public's best interest rather than pursuing policies that will harm those who rely on their support the most.”
A spokesperson for Powys County Council said: “As part of the draft budget 2024/25, proposals that are being considered include retaining the car parking charge price increase that was introduced in April 2023, introduce charging for blue badge holders in pay and display car parks but allow an additional hour on top of their paid tariff as a concession and introduce car parking charges at free car parks that are managed by the council.
“The draft budget will be considered by Full Council on Thursday, February 22.”
The Liberal Democrats have been approached for comment.