The theft of blue disabled parking badges has more than doubled in the past year. The number rose 167% from 656 thefts in 2012/13 to 1,756 in 2013/14, according to Department for Transport data.

Blue badges allow disabled drivers and passengers to park in disabled parking bays and to park for free in pay-and-display car parks.

Blue badges give thieves the benefit of conning more than £6,000 a year in free parking. Holders are also exempt from the congestion charge in the capital, a saving of £2,500 a year. Local Government Association deputy chairman Peter Fleming said: "Callous Blue Badge thieves and unscrupulous fraudsters using them illegally are robbing disabled people of this independence.

"It is staggering how low some people are stooping simply to con a few hours of free parking and alarming to see thefts rising so significantly," he said.

The misuse of a blue badge is tied to a maximum fine on conviction of £1,000. A total of 565 people were prosecuted last year in England and Wales, according to the Local Government Association. At least 2.5m disabled people have been issued the badges, which are issued by local councils.