Thefts of so-called ‘Blue Badge’ disabled parking permits have more than quadrupled over the past five years, according to the organisation that represent's English and Welsh councils.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils, said figures showed that 2,921 Blue Badges were stolen in 2017 – up from 2,556 in 2016 and just 656 in 2013.

Blue Badges allow disabled people to park in dedicated disabled parking bays, or on yellow lines for up to three hours, providing it is safe to do so. In London, meanwhile, badge holders are exempt from the congestion charge.

More than 1,130 fraudsters were successfully prosecuted last year for crimes such as using stolen or lost badges or using relatives’ badges to scam free parking.

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Councillor Martin Tett, the LGA’s transport spokesman, said the rise in thefts was ‘alarming’ and that councils were working hard to prosecute fraudsters despite limited resources.

‘Illegally using a Blue Badge is not a victimless crime,’ he said. ‘For disabled people, Blue Badges are a vital lifeline that helps them get out and about to visit shops or family and friends. Callous thieves and unscrupulous fraudsters using them illegally are robbing disabled people of this independence.’

‘Despite limited resources, councils continue to work hard to crackdown on this growing crime. More Blue Badge fraudsters than ever are being brought to justice by councils who will come down hard on drivers illegally using them.

‘It is important to catch these criminals in the act. To help councils win the fight against Blue Badge fraud, residents must keep tipping us off about people they suspect are illegally using a badge, bearing in mind people’s need for a badge might not be obvious.’