In July last year, at the time when the Coalition Government was contemplating lots of different ideas on how to approach the cuts, one of the ideas they floated was to remove free bus passes from pensioners. At the time I commented on this in my blog under the title of “Bus Pass Bust Up” dated 16 July 2010. The Government’s toe-in-the-water was met with a hail of protest and ultimately the Prime Minister denied there was any intention to remove free bus passes in the forthcoming cuts.
Now we can see the full sincerity of the politician’s words. Sure enough in one hand they kept bus passes for older people, whilst in the other hand they made savage cuts to Local Authorities. Now we are seeing the full impact of these cuts as subsidies to bus companies are reduced. All over the country the frequencies of bus services and the number of bus routes are being cut. There have been substantial protests in Plymouth and Stoke on Trent recently but of course now it’s the local politicians that are getting the blame rather than Central Government.
The elderly are the group that suffer most with these cuts since many of them no longer have cars but they still have to attend hospital appointments, doctor appointments and visit the shops, just like everyone else.
In Plymouth five services are being cut altogether and a further six are being reduced whilst the bus company is considering fare increases. At the same time Plymouth Citybus reported a record profit of £36.9m in the final half of 2010.
In Stoke on Trent, the City Council are proposing to cut subsidies to 44 services which will save £313k out of a total of £35.6m of cuts