Blue badge holders in Wiltshire could be allowed to park for free once again if a proposed amendment to the Conservatives' draft council budget is approved.

The Liberal Democrats presented their proposed budget amendments to the overview and scrutiny management committee at a meeting on Monday, February 12, which included a plan to remove parking charges for disabled drivers.

But the amendments will need to go through at the full council meeting on Tuesday, February 20 - at which councillors will have to agree on a balanced budget.

Wiltshire Council introduced parking charges for blue badge holders in September 2022 as part of the previous budget-making process.

Lib Dem councillor Gavin Grant explained the purpose of the amendment would be to provide free parking for disabled people in Wiltshire Council car parks, effectively reversing that decision.

Conservative councillor Tony Jackson acknowledged that many parking meters are difficult to find and operate but noted that the current hour’s free parking given to blue badge holders should allow most people to “overcome those hurdles".

He said: “Free parking, of itself, I don’t think is justified.”

Independent councillor Graham Wright said: “If you can afford to drive in a fairly nice car as a disabled person, tax it and insure it, surely you can pay a little bit towards parking.”

Conservative councillor Tom Rounds said: “It’s tinkering around with small pennies here, on a massive budget.”

He added: “If you can afford to run a car, you can afford the few pence to park at car parks.

“We’ve already debated this issue about blue badge parking and came to what I considered to be the right decision, so I don’t see that there is anything to be gained by revisiting this particular issue.”

Independent councillor Jon Hubbard suggested the focus should be on the general accessibility of car parks for disabled users.

He said: “Although I had a great number of people come to me and tell me how wrong it was that we were starting to charge, I did have some disabled people coming to me saying they were quite happy, it was about time they were being expected to.

He added: “I am minded that the council has a capital programme ongoing of replacing meters, but I wonder whether that programme is ambitious enough, fast enough and radical enough to actually be creating viable solutions for disabled people.”

Another amendment included in the Lib Dems' proposals was to establish a wider funding base for the 18 area boards.

This would involve a £3,000 increase in social welfare funding to each of the area boards, and the establishment of a central fund of £36,000 to account for extra funding.

As with the blue badge parking amendment, the sum needed for this amendment would be found in the business plan priority reserve, which is the money set aside to “help fund activities over and above what is included in the base budget.”

According to the leader of the council, Richard Clewer, a large amount of this reserve is set aside for enforcement activity across the county.

He said: “I wouldn’t have been suggesting the need for some significant resource to go into the enforcement area if I didn’t think there were really compelling reasons.”

The final amendment suggested by the Lib Dems was the provision of funding of £75,0000 to enable partnership working with VisitWiltshire or an equivalent body.

VisitWiltshire is an organisation responsible for promoting tourism in the county with which Wiltshire Council recently decided to not renew a contract.

This bid to save VisitWiltshire, or to find a suitable replacement, will be debated along with the other amendments at the full council meeting on Tuesday, February 20.