A Tory-led council has provoked anger after asking the public if they would support an end to free bus travel for disabled people and pensioners.
East Sussex County Council asked in a consultation whether it would be reasonable to charge elderly and disabled people half-fares for off-peak bus journeys that they can currently take for free, and East Sussex announced that despite being limited by legislation, it still wanted to test the water on what people thought of charges for a variety of services.
But even though East Sussex County Council are rigidly defined by law in the charges they’re allowed to make for services, they would still like to know if there are any additional charges people might believe is fair if the law changed to allow them.
Amongst the ideas that would ridicule prevailing legislation were: Half-fare on buses for pensioners and people with a disability; a charge to enter household waste and recycling sites; and a yearly charge for membership of the library.
The consultation infers East Sussex is unobtrusively measuring support for proposals to combat cut resources previously untested by local authorities, and the council said acknowledgements to the inquiry, which concluded on 31 December, will form part of their discussion with the government in the months that ensued and ahead of the next spending review.
The Local Government Association, which stewards authorities, warned last year that the way free bus passes are subsidised by the central government in Westminster has not kept up with rising demand and increasing costs, but disability and older people’s charities responded with outrage to East Sussex’s consultation, which comes after nine years of austerity and cuts of over £119 million to its budget, and the Royal National Institute of Blind People said that the charity was concerned at the prospect of half-fares for disabled people.
Buses are an important lifeline bringing independence to numerous people with sight loss, and this could hinder blind and partially sighted people from going about their daily lives freely, and with confidence, and disabled people are usually massively reliant on public transport.
Of course, many council’s are financially stretched, but surely life is more important?
Disabled people usually have no option but to pay more on basic goods and services like heating, therapies and equipment, but we should all be striving to decrease expenses for the disabled, not looking for ways to ramp them up.
Almost 10 million people qualify for concessionary bus travel in England, and being able to take free journeys adds to broader advantages to local restraints, and the free bus pass is unquestionably essential to countless older and disabled people, and local authorities need to realise that the free bus pass has extended benefits, and it’s estimated that for every £1 spent on concessions for older and disabled people, there’s a return of £3.80, and it’s disheartening to see that even as a consultative exercise, the idea of removing the right to free bus passes for older and disabled people is being considered.
But East Sussex County Council stated that the core offer consultation was a vocalisation of the level of assistance they believe residents should be entitled to expect from the council given the prevailing challenging financial climate, and that it was meant as a means to oversee their prospective financial planning and to show to the government the funding problems they encounter, what was important to local people, and to help them make the case for a realistic level of funding.
They further said that it wasn’t something they were aiming to do and to do it, it would, of course, need a change in the law, and they were simply seeking to assess what resident’s preferences were and what they considered vital services in the future if the prevailing funding squeeze on local government were to continue, and that they’re position remains that they’re calling on government for a truly fair funding review which takes into account the particular needs of counties, such as theirs, which are mainly rural in nature and have a large symmetry of older residents, so wouldn’t it only be right that they left bus passes in place so that their older occupants could get out and about, rather than being housebound?
It’s absolutely essential for older and disabled people to keep their independence, which is why local authorities are given £1 billion to provide the free bus pass scheme each year, and at the moment they’re no proposals to amend legislation, but it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen, put an idea in the governments thought process, and of course they will do it.
Why would they even contemplate taking bus passes away from OAP’s and the disabled who use the bus as a means to travel, and instead of even considering it, why don’t they just make cuts to the more affluent who promote this sort of drivel, and this is an authority on the brink of financial collapse, but perhaps in their desperation they might like to ask their various moneyed residents whether they would be prepared to contribute more freely, but I suspect that they won’t do that because they know what the answer would be to such a plea.
Before the General Election in 2010, David Cameron, on two separate television broadcasts, promised that the most vulnerable members of our society would be protected from the worst of the austerity measures. Unfortunately, since winning that referendum it’s been the most vulnerable members of our society that have borne the brunt of austerity.
Now 1 in 200 people are homeless, the Trussel Trust gives out millions of food parcels. Approximately 4 million working people are living in poverty. Universal Credit problems are adding to the hardships of God only knows how many people. Brexit preparations are costing this country billions. And now this.
Plus the Conservative Party are hellbent on selling us everything again that we already pay for, taxing tax on top of the tax. Perhaps they should try taxing these multinational companies that make billions of profit and line their pockets and the Tories keep it that way.
There are only two reasons why someone would want to vote Tory, one is if you’re stinking filthy rich, the other is if you’re deluded, to work out which category you fall into, just open your wallet, and look inside.
Labour, of course, couldn’t do any better, and I’m in despair of the people that are actually running our country and are so lacking in intelligence, and all striving politicians should be forced to live a year in lowly circumstances, and middle-class circumstances, this would give them an insight into how people live, and then perhaps they might become good politicians and not let their egotism and their own agenda’s run the show.