Barnet 55+ Forum will be at the lobby (actually, several lobbies!) and council meeting at Hendon Town Hall this coming Tuesday night. They are defending the Freedom Pass which allows 60+ people to travel free on buses. The drive to cut money spent on public services means that the government wants to raise the age at which people are eligible for it.
Below is the text by the 55+ Forum explaining their campaign.
THE FREEDOM PASS: ALARM BELLS ARE SOUNDING - EMERGENCY ACTIONS ARE NEEDED
Few schemes have fulfilled the meeting of a social need of older and disabled people than the establishment of the Freedom Pass and its extension of use. The impact on the mobility of people has been of enormous benefit to people and the communities. It is a situation that may be about to change unless Londoners wake up to the implications of a current proposal.
For the third time in recent years an attempt is being made to make changes to the conditions that apply to the GLA Concessionary Fares Act, 2009. It represents a most serious threat to the Freedom Pass. The arguments and the draft Bill itself is dressed up to make it seem no more than changes on the basis of technical rationality and not to appear contentious. But the proposed changes are in effect a potential blank cheque to make changes to anything and everything, because the rules of the game will have been altered. That is why London boroughs older people’s Forums give an instinctive NO to the changes proposed as soon as they become aware of what’s afoot, and seek to get their borough Councils also to say NO in the consultation that is taking place.
Barnet 55+ Forum have launched a petition to the Council to that effect. Members and friends are urged over the next few days to make use of it, get your filled in forms back to us. We will seek to present them to the Council at its meeting next Tuesday. We will also seek to address the Council to press them to change their position, which appears to go along with the Bill’s sponsors- Westminster Council.
To make as much impact as possible we again ask members and friends to help by being at the Town Hall next Tuesday 14th September, showing your concern.
The intention of the current move by Westminster and other councils is to have an enablement in the Act that will give flexibility on services. That will be on certain rail services in the short term. The other proposal is for councils to be able to go to “independent” arbitration in the event of a disagreement with Transport for London over the costs of the scheme. Such flexibility and procedure will undoubtedly open the door to further changes. We are calling on our Council to have nothing to do with it.
A few factors you should know:
• This is a private Bill, drawn up by a hired agency. What price elected representatives!
• The consultation being now rushed through (principally involving Councils, and no serious attempt to involve others, least of all the users) finishes on 22nd October. They will then seek to make it law on November 4th. The excuse for this rush is that a private Bill is allowed once a year and they would have to wait another year! It is farcical. It is not serious consultation
• A great many councillors, let alone the public, are either unaware of what is going on, or are ignorant of the facts and arguments.
• Council positions can be found out on their websites before they meet. Check it out, and act accordingly
THIS WILL BE A SERIOUS STEP BACKWARDS IF PASSED. COSTINGS SHOULD BE ON SOCIAL COST BASIS AND MEASURED AGAINST NEED. WE URGE A RESOUNDING NO FROM ALL QUARTERS. BUT AS A VERY MINIMUM THERE SHOULD BE NO DECISION NOW. THERE SHOULD BE A POSTPONMENT TO ALLOW PROPER CONSULTATION TO TAKE PLACE. JOIN THE “NO CHANGE” FIGHT.
Chairperson Barnet 55+Forum
8th September 2010