Kingston’s Liberal Democrat councillors are leading a local campaign against a proposed cut in the Government grant which helps pay for pensioner and disabled bus journeys.
The administration’s Executive member for Transport, Cllr Bob Steed explained: “Just last year, the Department of Transport promised a £55million grant to London local authorities to help us pay for the Freedom Pass journeys of our elderly and disabled residents.
“We now understand that the Labour Government is considering withdrawing millions of pounds from this arrangement, putting Kingston’s free travel budget under serious threat.”
The Liberal Democrat Chair of London Assembly’s Transport Committee Caroline Pidgeon and MP Tom Brake have launched a London-wide campaign against the Government’s ‘concessionary fare review’.
Many of elderly and disabled residents in Kingston are on fixed, low incomes and so depend on this free travel scheme to maintain daily mobility and independence.
The Labour Government is hoping to reduce their contributions to the Freedom Pass scheme, so that London Council Tax payers are forced to burden an increased proportion of the cost.
This is clearly an unfair move at a time of economic hardship for many local Council Tax payers, and seems particularly unreasonable as central government now covers 100% of the expense of free travel for disabled and elderly people everywhere else in the country.
Members of Kingston’s Liberal Democrat council group have added their names to an on-line petition against the Government’s proposed funding cut.
Cllr Sue Baker, of Chessington Hook and North ward commented: “The Freedom Pass is treasured by the 2,315 disabled adults and children in the borough who own one.
“My daughter Natalie takes great ownership in her pass and with support has managed to travel extensively across London in the past 2 years. She uses the pass at least twice a week to travel to Kingston and we were amazed last week when she managed to show a new support worker the bus home. Taking the pass away from her will knock back the little piece of independence she has managed to achieve. This government should be utterly ashamed of targeting the most vulnerable and elderly people the Pass was aimed at helping.”