Disabled parking survey 'more tilted than the Leaning Tower of Pisa' (From St Albans & Harpenden Review)
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West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust disabled parking survey 'more tilted than the Leaning Tower of Pisa'
A survey asking whether disabled drivers should be charged to park at St Albans City Hospital has been criticised for being "more tilted than the Leaning Tower of Pisa".
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust is consulting visitors of its three hospital sites, which also includes Watford General, over plans to charge everyone the same £4 rate to park, despite previously waiving the cost for blue-badge holders.
Val Hogan-Buckle, a disabled patient, said: "Anyone needing to use a blue badge has severe difficulties and in many cases are on low fixed incomes which would be hard hit if they impose these charges.
"With the fuel increases, insurance increases and any associated costs for running a vehicle the motorist is being hit below the belt purely because we are a good source of income."
The survey asks whether it is right to charge blue-badge holders, and justifies the parking charge by citing administration costs, which include security, maintenance, road repairs, land charges, equipment, admin and personnel. It goes on: "It is important for the trust to cover these costs when deciding on the charging structure, otherwise the money would need to be found elsewhere, from services, staff and other infrastructure."
Trust chief executive Samantha Jones said: "Car parking and transport are clearly emotive subjects and there are no easy answers. "The survey asks some searching questions and a number of possible methods for future parking charges. We need people to give us their honest views.
"We are open to all suggestions, but we do need to be mindful that future arrangements must not conflict with the trust’s green environmental responsibilities."
Barrie Irvine, a disabled driver who visits the hospital regularly, said: "I have completed the survey on hospital transport and parking and it is more tilted than the Leaning Tower of Pisa."
He criticised some of the questions, suggesting they were "so loaded as to be of little or no value and appear to be an attempt to belittle the person doing the survey."
Some of the questions include "do you think blue badge holders should have free car parking?", "should blue badge car parking be subsidised by other car parking users?" and "do you agree the trust should be generating a small level of surplus funds from car parking to maintain and improve car parking facilities?"
Mrs Hogan-Buckle added: "I don’t hold up much hope of them having a social conscience when they are trying to hit the vulnerable in the name of fairness.
"I have suggested the trust look to the drug company representatives who use the blue badge area frequently and go into the hospital to promote their companies goods.
"I had one parked next to me on Wednesday last week and a lady who was a wheelchair user could not get a space because of it."