Councils across London reacted angrily today, to the news that the government will slash funding for the Freedom Pass.
The capital had been promised a £58 million special grant for free bus travel this year but this has been reduced to just £29 million.
According to the proposals:
"it was originally anticipated that London would require a very significant grant to meet the cost of concessionary passengers from the surrounding counties now travelling for free on the extensive London Bus Network. It has now transpired that there have been far fewer of these trips than was anticipated"
The almost £29 million taken from London will help prop up the government's national concessionary scheme instead.
London Councils’ Chairman, Councillor Merrick Cockell, said today:
“The Government’s decision at this late stage to alter the deal already agreed is absolutely stunning and will be met with anger across the capital. Boroughs have already budgeted for this funding and now London is facing having the amount of funding it was promised almost halved."
Liberal Democrat London Assembly Transport Spokesperson Caroline Pidgeon said today:
“After Boris Johnson’s decision to hike bus fares by 20% Londoners now face a double whammy with this savage cut in funding for the Freedom Pass.“London is the only major city in the country to be hit by these Government proposals. Hard up London council taxpayers, who are already facing a steep rise in fares, will now have to pay even more in their council tax to maintain London’s Freedom Pass.”
Freedom pass funding has long been a thorny issue between the Mayor, the government and London boroughs.
Earlier this year Boris sought to remove some of those thorns by giving up his own reserve powers on the issue.
Unfortunately for some, he changed the way the scheme was funded, meaning some boroughs were forced to contribute much more.
And as boroughs across the capital announce plans to either freeze or reduce their level of council tax, this money will now have to come from elsewhere instead.
For many Londoners this will mean more hidden charges, more fees, and more rows over the future of the freedom pass itself.
-Update- Boris Johnson's transport advisor Kulveer Ranger, said:
"It is quite simply outrageous for the Government to announce they intend to reconsider funding arrangements that were already agreed and we will be seeking urgent clarification from the Minister on how this might affect Londoners. One of the Mayor's top priorities has been to protect the right to free travel for the less well off and elderly in the capital. He knows how important this privilege can be to the over 60s, which is why he found funding to make it 24 hours and why he will do everything in his power to ensure it continues."