In England you can get a bus pass for free travel when you reach the female State Pension age, whether you’re a man or a woman. Dispatch reader SHEELAGH HEGARTY suggests implementing a small admin fee may be the answer …
As a 63-year-old female West Leeds resident who is the victim of the 1995 and 2011 Pension Repeal Acts and who will not be eligible to receive the full flat rate State pension in July 2019 even with 46 qualifying Years of NI contributions, I would like to present the council with a neutral cost proposal to reinstate free bus passes for the over 60s.
Since 2011 both men and women aged over 60 have enjoyed a free bus pass nationally until the recent changes to woman’s state pension age. This was a great asset to many people who would otherwise remain in their homes unable to travel.
“Inequality of opportunity”
Surveys have been carried out to elicit the opinions of women affected by this inequality of opportunity and we would appreciate a free bus pass reinstatement and would be prepared to pay an administration fee of £10-£20 if this meant we could enjoy free bus travel like those who have done so before us and continue to enjoy this luxury in Wales, Scotland, the six counties of Ulster, London, Liverpool and Manchester.
By paying an admin fee there would be no cost to the council to process a bus pass except of course for those on certain benefits who receive the bus pass anyway and unlike the old system there would be know wastage as people would think twice if they had to pay an admin fee and only those who intend to use it would apply.
Bus companies would not lose out either as people would be filling what would have been empty seats.
With hospital closures many people are having to travel miles for appointments and procedures, libraries are closing, the out-of-town shopping centres with the best bargains are miles away, the best value food markets is in the city centre: all these amenities need affordable accessible transport links to meet both the financial and physical needs of an ageing population.
The withdrawal of the free bus pass has caused loneliness and misery, not all over 60’s are still in work, some are forced to seek work, they need to travel, some are on zero hours contracts and can’t afford the travel expenses, some are too sick to work, others are living on their dwindling savings too scared to apply for benefits.
Depression is on the rise in the older generation and is a further burden on the already fully stretched NHS and social care.
‘Admin fee’ is the answer
As men and women have enjoyed the freedom of the bus pass from the age of 60 until the recent pension age hike, this withdrawal cannot be in the name of equalisation and has to come down to cost, so my proposal is simple, reinstate the free bus pass in Leeds for the over 60’s with an admin fee of the actual cost of processing.
This would be of benefit to our local economy as the over 60’s take their grandchildren out, they meet friends in the city centre and spend money.
An additional advantage would be to the environment, getting people out of their cars, many travelling solo, and decrease pollution and traffic congestion.
I am loath to use the word discrimination, but this also has to be part of the issue when it is only certain parts of England where the bus pass has been withdrawn. Surely this inequality of opportunity cannot be allowed to continue?
I therefore request that this proposal is put forward for discussion at the Council’s earliest convenience so that the issue can be discussed fully given that it in no way impacts on council costs or bus company profit.
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