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Petition launched in hospital parking row
A petition has been launched in a bid to get the trust that looks after St Albans City Hospital to reconsider its decision to start charging disabled people to park.
Outraged residents and councillors have set up the online petition following West Hertfordshire NHS Hospital Trust’s announcement that blue badge holders will no longer be exempt from paying the minimum £4 parking fee.
Resident Jack Easton, who is a member of the St Albans Green Party, launched the site on Sunday.
He said: "People know that tough choices are being made in public services.
"But when you seem to be hitting some of the most vulnerable in their pockets then people are going to ask if they have really thought it through.
"The best that we can achieve is that the trust will reconsider and see if they can find the money elsewhere."
Councillor Simon Grover, who is supporting the petition, said: "We want to put pressure on the trust to change their minds.
"It will give everybody the chance to express their view.
"It will make the trust realise the strength of public opinion on this.
In January the trust announced that blue badge holders will be charged to park in hospitals across the area, including Watford General, in order to create fairness and equality for everyone.
Councillor Grover said: "Of all the ways of trying to save money the hospital chooses this.
"The way that the trust has tried to justify it shows a complete lack of understanding of the situation that a lot of disabled people are in.
"They need to go to hospital more than other people; they are more likely to be elderly and to be on a lower income.
"I think people are finding it very hard to understand. They are very cross about it."
The controversial issue was also discussed in a council meeting last week, where politicians showed unanimous anger at the idea.
All councillors across all political parties voted for a motion asking for the issue to be scrutinised at a meeting on Tuesday, February 26.
Councillor Malachy Pakenham, the Labour representative for Batchwood, said: "This is effectively a tax on ill health.
"This is highly relevant to lots of people. It is disgraceful."
Liberal Democrat councillor Aislinn Lee added: "It is absolutely criminal and immoral.
"I think this council united should stand up. Let's stand up for our residents with one voice.
"There is something wrong here."
Councillor Chris Brazier said: "This really does open a whole debate about hospital parking.
"We need to put this to scrutiny to look at the whole issue.
"It has become a wider issue of people visiting relatives and friends.
"I really do think that the hospital is not in control of the car parking."
Councillor Robert Donald added: "This is a very sensitive issue and it seems to be being handled in an insensitive way by the trust.
"I would like the council to do what it can to put leverage on the trust to change their minds."
The council’s scrutiny committee will review the transport, access and parking policies of the trust.