Thursday, 6 August 2009

Again, less to this story than meets the eye

I was going to blog last night about the Daily Mail story that middle class pensioners might start being means-tested for their free bus passes, but glad I held off. I've now had this email from Sir Jeremy Beecham, the (Labour) Vice Chair of the LGA:

Dear Kerry,
You may be aware of the lead article in today’s Daily Mail, and subsequent coverage on the BBC’s Today, which cites a report written by Oxera and commissioned by the Local Government Association which examined local bus services and the bus subsidy system. I would like to reassure you that the LGA and councils are emphatically not in favour of means testing free bus fares.

The Daily Mail article concentrates on a suggestion by Oxera that the concessionary bus fare “scheme is targeted too widely, benefiting many people on higher incomes with access to cars” and its subsequent recommendation that the concessionary bus fare scheme should become a “targeted” initiative focused on those who require such support.

The LGA makes it clear on page 5 of our publication that we reject this finding and state that:

“Means testing for concessionary fares is not the solution. Take up of the scheme would fall drastically, the benefits it delivers greatly reduced and administrative burdens significantly increased.”

Whilst we believe that there are problems with the way the concessionary bus fare scheme has been funded, and which ultimately has caused financial difficulties for some local authorities, bus fare concessions for pensioners are popular and councils are positive in their wholehearted support for them. Councils want their local bus schemes to be the best that they can be so that people are encouraged to use public transport instead of cars and therefore reduce congestion on the roads.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham
Vice Chair of the Local Government Association

1 comment:

dreamingspire said...

It is clear from their web site that the LGA is saying that the public sector puts a great deal of money into bus services (suggested to be 50% of the revenue accruing to the bus operators, from other govt funding schemes as well as from the bus pass use), and therefore it must move to have much more influence over service quality and availability. So this is a well timed prod up the rear of both DfT and the relevant Ministers.
A consultation on the organisation of reimbursement for ENCTS (bus pass) use has recently finished, but it didn't ask the right question, which is "How should we ensure that reimbursement funds are equitably distributed, because we don't know how to do it?"