UNDERFIRE Dudley Council has been forced to hire extra staff to cope with a huge backlog of applications for blue badges which has left many disabled people unable to travel.

People like 88-year-old Halesowen stroke victim Bud Shackleton, who also has a heart condition. His badge expired on September 29 and despite applying for a renewal on August 12, has still not received it.

For the retired Scout Association worker and his wife Ann, of Chadbury Road, it is a worrying time, because they do not claim disability allowance and fear that under the Government’s new stringent rules he may not be eligible, despite his serious walking difficulties.

Mrs Shackleton said she wanted people to know they should apply well before the renewal date to avoid being left without a badge.

“It’s very difficult, and as my husband is also suffering from vertigo, I have to hold onto him when we are walking. It is a struggle,” she added.

Although neighbouring Sandwell Council has not had a problem, Dudley Council blames its backlog on the new rigorous assessment designed to clamp down on fraud and abuse of the blue badge system.

The badge allows vehicles carrying card holders free parking virtually anywhere including double yellow lines for permitted time periods.

Councillor Steve Waltho, cabinet member for adult and community services, said the problem had become a priority and two extra members of staff employed to deal with the backlog, which he now hopes has “stabilised.”

Dudley has processed about 3,500 applications since the new rules came into force on April 1 and 247 fresh applications have been received already this month.

Council advice is to apply eight weeks before the renewal date for applications which do not meet the criteria for automatic approval and two weeks for those which do meet the criteria.

Dudley’s Age UK chief officer Sally Huband: “The process has been made much more difficult to stop the system being abused, but we are concerned that genuine people are being left without badges because of the delays in processing them. You used to be able to get a temporary pass, but you can’t even do that now.”

Cllr Waltho said he wouid look into Mr Shackleton's application.