There are 34,387 people with a Blue Badge, according to the latest figures from the Department of Transport, compared to 34,384 in 2017.
That’s 4.6% of the population, higher than the rate for the whole of England of 4.2%.
Across the country, 2.35 million badges have been given out by local authorities to people with disabilities or individuals and organisations concerned with their care. The badges allow the holders to park closer to their destination and remain for longer. They are valid for three years.
Blue Badges can be issued automatically to some people, such as those receiving higher levels of disability allowance or registered blind. Other badges are subject to further assessments.
In Northamptonshire , in the 12 months to March 2018, 12,605 new badges were issued, 4,330 automatically and 8,190 after a further assessment.
But the data shows that just 54% of those automatically eligible for a badge have one.
Kamran Mallick, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK said that a difference in Blue Badge usage across the country was partly the result of the availability of accessible public transport. He said that people in rural areas were more dependent on cars.
He said: “The Blue Badge scheme is an important and essential part of ensuring that we, disabled people, can participate and live our lives in society.
“With public transport not universally accessible the use of a car is essential for many. Being able to park closer to the destination is essential for badge holders and can mean the difference between going out or not.”
In 2019 the scheme will be extended to allow people with ‘hidden disabilities’ such as autism and mental health problems to apply.
In launching the extension, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton said: “It is absolutely right that disabled people are able to go about their daily life without worrying about how they will get from one place to another.
“We’re taking an important step forward in ensuring people with hidden disabilities get the support they need to live independently.”
Mr Mallick said the extension was a welcome change.
He added: “If we are to truly have an inclusive society that works for everyone, the Blue Badge is an essential component of this.”