The number of blue badge applications received by Shropshire Council has increased by a fifth since they were made available to people with hidden disabilities four years ago, according to figures released after a Whitchurch woman's complaint.

The authority says it is currently training extra staff to help “streamline” the process and better cope with demand, after accepting that applications are not currently being dealt with quickly enough.

Figures showing the average waiting times and the increase in applications since hidden disabilities were brought into the scheme in 2019 have been released by the council ahead of a meeting next week.

They were requested by Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Roger Evans after it was reported in June that a woman with terminal cancer from Whitchurch had been told to expect a 12-week wait for a blue badge.

The figures show applications wholly within the council’s control are currently being turned around in an average of 15 working days for new applications and 30 for renewals, with the oldest outstanding application received on March 21.

For applications which rely on external factors – such as referrals for independent medical assessments, non-payments or requests for extra information from the applicant – the average processing time is 41 working days for new applications and 59 days for renewals.

The oldest application still outstanding was received on New Year’s Day.

In a written question to the cabinet member for highways, Councillor Evans asked for assurance that the backlog would be cleared “within the next few days”.

The response from Councillor Richard Marshall said the council accepted it needed to cut waiting times and was currently training extra staff.

Councillor Marshall said: “We accept that the processing of some blue badge applications is taking longer than we would like and for those who are waiting for their blue badge, we understand their concerns and recognise the impact that the processing time is having on both our existing badge-holders and new applicants.

“It is unrealistic to confirm that the backlog will be resolved within the next few days as there is a significant number of applications and a small team dealing with them.

“However, we absolutely want to make the application process as efficient as possible.

“For this reason, we have recently redesigned the team that has responsibility for assessing blue badge applications and have invested in new staff who are currently being trained to undertake the required assessments.

“It will take time to fully train the staff and to increase the resilience within the team, but we recognise that this is key to reducing the time it takes to make decisions and to further streamline the blue badge process to help improve delivery of the service going forward. This is a medium-term project.”

Councillor Marshall said the number of blue badge applications received by the council each year was around 6,000.

He said: “There has been a gradual and continuing increase over recent years from around 5,000 following the inclusion of the non-visible disabilities within the eligibility criteria.”

Councillor Marshall said average waiting times since the beginning of the year were in line with government expectations.

“We do also prioritise cases where it is clear that the applicant meets certain special rules relating to terminal illness,” he added.