Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Government slashes funding for Freedom Pass

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.”

Thorns

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."

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Freedom Pass should be funded centrally by the Mayor. The current system is so complicated that nobody knows where the funding is coming from and every borough feels hard done by the others. Freedom Pass holders don't just travel within theiir boroughs so why should it be funded by them?

barry rochford said...

Much as I cannot stand Boris's mayoralty as a 'cut everything' and 'make much noise about irrelevances' regime, I cannot see how this is his fault and on this occasion he can rightly blame Brown & co for the cuts
Or arfe the boroughs to get extra funding instead?

AdamB said...

I wasn't suggesting that it was his fault.

sarah hart said...

Kulveer Ranger bleats about protecting the less well off. Oh, yeah?
So why did Boris cancel the Venenezuela- London oil deal which funded the concessionary fares?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

They hate us for our freedoms...

Appealing of Ealing said...

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

"They hate us for our freedoms..."

Ha! It's offical: all freedom is cancelled, my friend. Tax and bribe, borrow and squander has maxed out. You are now a slave. So are your children -- their future has been mortgaged.

If you think this is bad, just wait till after the election when the misery really starts. Hopefully it'll only last for about ten years or so, but however long, you can thank Labour for it.

Maybe an era when you actually have to pay for the things you want to have, (you know like with your own money and stuff), might teach some of you about the value of money. Truly, that lesson was lost on a generation.

Anonymous said...

Correct : just like all those Greedy Politicians .

Bus Passes Blog said...

I read that the bus pass journeys made by passengers from outside London is not as high as thought, but having used my bus pass in London when on a visit from Yorkshire, no ticket was issued, I was just waived onto the bus - so how would anyone know how many such journeys were made ? For more information visit the bus passes blog<

Rob said...

Yes, I wondered how cross country usage was assessed: given the huge variety of bus ticket systems across the UK, I'm guessing that trying to capture every journey won't work.

Freedom Pass usage/costs are based a number of users keeping diaries. How are the allocations worked out for this scheme? It clearly has drastic implications.

jonathan said...

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/SaveFreedomPass/

Please sign up.

Anne said...

Well I just got my Freedom Pass renewal letter and it says the new five-year pass will now cover the overground 24/7 and national rail throughout the country after 9.30am on weekdays and all day at weekends. So they've actually extended it, significantly.