Give away Mayor can’t be green too

For latest on this story follow this link.

This scheme costs £213 million but don't expect me to tell youToday the Mayor is trying to ensure that his role in the Freedom Pass is not undermined. Most people would see the Freedom Pass (free travel for disabled people and those over 60) as a good thing. Much of it probably is but few people understand the cost (£213 million in the last financial year), see link.

The public debate and subsequent decisions about such benefits need to take place in the context of a full understanding of the costs. The Mayor is a great one for talking about freebies but not admitting how much they cost. The cost of this scheme is the equivalent of running two large general hospitals. I for one would argue that much of this resource should be re-targeted at the very old who can’t even physically get on a bus. There are few people who are in work or on good pensions who would strongly argue that they should be the recipients of this largesse.

The other thing the Mayor needs to accept that this scheme covers over one million people. It is not green Mr Mayor to give a million people free travel. In fact it is quite mad from an environmental point of view.

If you have come here from the Mayor’s press release follow this link to see my rebuttal.

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19 Responses to Give away Mayor can’t be green too

  1. Roger Evans says:

    Of course the problem with this scheme is the large number of people who claim their pass but don’t use it – effectively creating a subsidy for the bus companies.

    Now here’s a thought – Oyster provides the technology to calculate how much each card is used and on which journeys. So if the charge was levied on that basis boroughs would be paying the true cost of their residents travel, rather than an impost to TfL. Perhaps that is the sort of policy we should seek from our Mayoral candidate…

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  3. Hi Phil

    I thought your readers might be interested to see the Mayor’s reaction to your and Roger’s comments:

    http://www.mayorwatch.co.uk/news.php?slug=Free-Travel-Row-Rumbles-On&article_id=571

  4. Frank Belsey says:

    As a pensioner who paid (and still pay taxes) and NI contributions, during 50 years of work, served three years in the RAF, I am apalled that there are persons like you who wish to deprive pensioners of the only valuable consession we get from politicians, the FREEDOM PASS. Transport fares in London are now so expensive that pensioners who receive the worst state pension in Europe would be condemned to travel only as far as their legs would let them, and as we get older, that is not very far. if we lost the free travel for our city. As for cost it is disgraceful that you link it to financing hospitals, more to the point you should be linking it to the Blair’s wars, how many billions have we spent on killing people. If you are sucessful in destroying our freedom pass, or even reducing its value, the ignored public, and the pensioners in particular, will reek revenge at forthcoming elections. If I sound angry well I certainly am, and so is every other pensioner, and their families to whom I speak.

  5. Phil says:

    Frank,

    Thanks for your comment. No-one wants to destroy the Freedom Pass. Not me, not anyone in the Conservative party for sure.

    I have lots of friends who enjoy their passes and perhaps feel that they don’t really need them. There are lots of 60+ people with good incomes, either from work or pensions, who would accept that they should not be at the head of the queue for public support. At the same time the really elderly are often the most deprived in our society and London councils are all paying about £6.5 million each on Freedom Passes whilst at the same time only those old folk with the most extreme needs are eligible for care from councils. There is an element of misallocation of resources here.

  6. Clive Price says:

    As a London pensioner I regard the Freedom Pass as one of the most valuable benefits that I have and will fight to prevent its’ being diluted.

    Passenger transport in London depends on a logical mix of mainly radial and orbital rail services fed by a network of bus routes. This is as it should be and, in my experience, delivers journey times that in most cases are very much less, door to door, than is possible by road alone. If the Freedom Pass were to become a simple bus pass it would hugely detract from its purpose and its real value.

    Furthermore, I believe that it would tempt many car owners to reconsider car travel for long cross-London journies, adding to congestion, pollution and the inefficient use of cars with single occupancy.

    Worse still, it would discourage older people from being involved, both actively and passively, in the immensely diverse and vibrant life of this great city. The charitable sector alone probably relies heavily on volunteer work by the ‘grey army’ and both would be the poorer if they were forced to pay extra in time and money for the ‘privilege’ of carrying on this work.

    On the ‘Green Issue’ bus and train operators run to a timetable regardless of the passenger loading at any one time. Thus the energy costs of providing the service are largely fixed. Is it not better, then, that if someone wants to make a journey it should not generate additional road traffic and fuel consumption? Good bus and train occupancy must be in everyone’s interest.

    If, as Phil Taylor seems to suggest, many Freedom Pass holders do not use it but the transport providers are still paid per capita, then clearly the charging system is wrong and I would agree that, with Oyster technology, it should be possible to charge only for those journies that are actually made.

    Perhaps someone could explain just how the costs of the scheme are actually evaluated and how reimbursement of road and rail operators is made?

  7. John Leach says:

    I am a London pensioner and I was born in London and lived and worked in London. I am now retired.
    The Freedom Pass has enabled me to visit friends, go to shops, see the Christmas Lights in West End, numerous things
    It gets me out of the house, the exercise and fresh air keeps me fit. It is a wonderful boon. Without it I would depend on people with cars, or just go to the local shop or library.
    I have always paid London Borough Council tax and still do!.

    I myself have told other pensioners who have a Freedom Pass and never use it, (they use cars) that they should not claim their pass as it costs money.

    I use my pass nearly every day. without it I would probably only go out once a week.

    I agree that the costing could perhaps be altered to charge by use, similar to an Oyster card.
    Or maybe to deter people who never use their pass from applying for one an administration fee could be paid when renewing or applying for the pass.Those in real financial need could be exempt.

    I remember my late Mother when she had her pass how she benefited from it, and at that time I as a worker I never begrudged any small extra tax it might be taking from me. I was pleased she had it. Most young people I speak to think it is a good for the elderly to get free tavel around town.

    The Freedom Pass is something that London can be proud of, other cities in the world should try to do have a similar scheme.

    The elderly do not get a lot, please don’t take away our means of getting out and about.

  8. Frank Belsey says:

    I thank Phil Taylor for his reply to my previous comments. It seems pretty certain that with the goverment introducing free local bus travel nationwide that some form of free travel will continue in London, but I can well see many local councils wanting to reduce the cost of the Freedom Pass by removing some of its elements such as overground rail. However London is a special case because of the vast area that it covers, and a bus only pass would deprive many of us living on the outskirts of London from accessing the inter parts of the city we love, have worked and lived in all our lives.
    I live at the north of the London Borough of Enfield, and to get into central London by bus would take at least one and half hours each way, and that is when traffic is not distrupted. It even takes 45 minutes by bus to reach the nearest tube station. Long journeys on London buses for those of us past seventy is not an option, the drivers on the whole are of a poor standand, showing little interest in the comfort or even welfare of passengers, and the congestion together with bad road surfaces make such journey a very tiring and unpleasant.
    So I just ask Mr Taylor to recognise these facts, and assure us all that he would not contemplate removing any of the modes of travel currently covered by the Freedom Pass.
    Many thanks for your time.

  9. Stephen Aselford says:

    As a disabled transport user from Croydon I use the freedom pass every day including national rail Trams & busses to visit freinds trying to find work etc. Many disabled people who may have work will unlikly to be on large City aleries so any help would be most greatfull to acsess employment.
    The Free travel on local busses across England is welcome but Doesnt Mean to say that the Councils Can withdraw the Rail comsesion Tube or tram

  10. Alan Cornefert says:

    I have been partially sighted since birth and therefore not allowed to drive a car.

    It was only last year that I found out that I was entitled to a Freedom Pass and what a change it made to my life!

    I was able to visit my parents by train without thought to the cost. Up until last year, my Dad would pick me up and then return me home by car. Towards the end of last year, his health declined so he couldn’t do this, but I was able to continue visiting them because of the Freedom Pass. Now my Dad has died recently and I am so grateful that I was able to spend most Sundays with him last year.

    My medical condition often makes me feel very lethargic and therefore unable to earn much money. But apart from Tax Credits (as a single person I don’t get much from this), the Freedom Pass is the only benefit I have ever received from the state for my disability. Were it to be taken away I would go back to having to minimise travel as much as possible.

    The argument that the wealthy shouldn’t be entitled to the Freedom Pass is a false one. They usually have a car and drive everywhere. People like myself don’t have a choice, we have to use public transport.

    I do agree that it would be fairer to charge the London Boroughs for the actual use of the pass, rather than a flat rate per person. But it must be possible to estimate what the overall cost of Freedom Pass journeys is. Everyone has to check in on the tube and buses, and most railway stations. If people apply for the pass, but don’t use it, surely that means that the overall cost is less? Then it comes down to allocating this cost to the London Boroughs.

    Even if this is not the situation, this will surely change as smart cards eventually replace the current cards and allow the total cost of Freedom Pass journeys to be calculated. It is just a matter of waiting for technology to solve this problem in time.

  11. Colm Costello says:

    Phil
    Before you raised this issue I naively assumed that the oyster technology was being used to calculate the number of journeys being made by local residents and that local authorities would be billed for the journeys their residents made. If as you suggest there is a fixed cost per freedom pass regardless of use then this needs to be looked at as there is possibly a lot of waste here that local authorities might be able to use in other important areas. I have a neighbour who got his Freedom Pass last year. He has used it once. Do we know what this has cost us as a borough?

  12. Phil says:

    Colm,

    Yes, you have identified the key issue. Once someone applies for a pass their borough pays a fixed fee per head. I have been searching around for further information on this but it is hard to get hold of. I did find this on the Richmond website:

    “Each pass costs approximately £380 as soon as it is issued, the total cost to Richmond Council is approximately £5,000,000 a year. The annual cost for the whole of London is approximately £200,000,000, Richmond’s share is based on how many passes the borough issues. This is why it is important to check, whenever the passes are issued, that everyone is eligible.”

    I think the numbers are slightly different for each borough. But basically your neighbour has cost the council £380 for his one bus ride. I have no trouble with a pensioner running around town all year for £380 but it is the people who just apply because it is their right but then don’t use it who are wasting a lot of money.

  13. F R Gerschwiler says:

    So – what is the cost of the Pass? Richmond had said (above) that the cost to them is £380 per pass – my own calculations suggest that if 1049975 elderly/disabled people benefit (Feb07 figures) and the cost for 2007 is £213million the figure per pass seems to be around £203 per person per annum (maybe the Richmond figures were for the 2 year life of each pass? At less than £4 per week (ie 2 bus journeys) I do not think the cost excessive at all. It may be argued that it would be more equitable if the charge to each council (or maybe to the Councils collectively) was based on actual use (the technology probably exists to do this). However I do not think this would result in any significant change in costs to the Councils – but it might be seen as a fairer system.

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  16. Margaret says:

    Why has Boris has not followed Ken example by giving elderly people the freedom pass for 24 hrs instead of keeping restrictions on it.

    What a shame that Ken did not get back into being Mayor of London as he was doing a very good job look at what we have got now??????

  17. Phil says:

    Margaret,

    Boris matched the Mayor’s promise to make the FP 24 hours.

    Party on!

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