Thursday, June 05, 2008

Free Bus Travel - in Perspective

Darlington Tories are trying every trick in the book to keep the issue of free travel for pensioners in the public eye - even resorting (a bit desperately, I thought) to a convoluted story in the Echo recently about how Gordon Brown was somehow to blame for the recent hike in world oil prices recently.

Because, as you know, I have way too much time on my hands, I thought I'd do an internet survey to see how other local authorities across the country are responding to this issue. Remember, the Government brought in a national scheme which funded councils to provide free off-peak travel (i.e. after 9.30am and before 11.30pm Monday to Friday, and all day at the weekend) for pensioners and disabled people anywhere in the country on local services.

I looked at the internet sites of 100 borough and district councils in the east, south-east and south of England across 11 counties (East Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, West Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall). Given the high proportion of pensioners who live in many of these areas, I thought that these councils' response to the issue would be especially interesting. Most now, of course are Tory-run, with some in No Overall Control and a smattering in the hands of the LibDems or independents. This is what I found;

Over half (54) have adopted the Government minimum scheme, a version of which we have here in Darlington (we allow free late travel Monday to Friday).

13 allow free travel after 9am, 7 after 8.30am and just over a quarter (26) have gone for the free 24/7 scheme.

So what does this tell us? Well, it would appear that Darlington's approach is mirrored by the majority of councils in the country. Like Darlington, they too are juggling budgetary pressures, as they strive to provide value-for-money services which meet the needs of their residents.

Darlington, then, is not only far from unique in its approach to concessionary travel - it is very much in the mainstream. Maybe press coverage in the future might reflect that fact.


Ian White 24/7 passes. said...

You can use figures and data from anywhere in the world, but it does not detract from the fact that here in Darlington, the only place us who live here in Darlington care about.
This issue shouldn't go away unill you and others like you who are elected by the people to represent them actually listen as you keep preporting to.
This will be the cornerstone of Labours defeat at the next election if the "listening council" doesn't do just that, I dont think you have any idea how much resentment this issue is causing with "the man in the street" I was talking to a man who lives in Neasham and he could only get a Dr's appointment before 9:30 or wait 2-3 weeks and it was going to cost him over £3 to get there.
This is the tip of the ice berg and needs Cllr Williams (who is allegedly monitoring it) to actually do something about it!
You were narrowly voted in at the last elections do you realy want a landslide lost at the next.
Finally in my rant please dont bring up the cost as everyone knows that this wasteful council can find funds mysteriously from nowhere if it needs them for things like the PHart overspend and dare I even say the Trans Alp transport corridor, its abd thing when the council puts bloody Newts before its disabled and elderly!

Rant over.

Anonymous said...

Two wrongs don't make a right Nick

Spineless said...

CAMERONS to sort bus passes! they have you lot at DBC on the run :)

miketually said...

By how much would the car parking charge need increasing in order to raise the extra £300,000 needed for free bus passes?

Anonymous said...

As an experienced politician you should know when to quit and this is a very weak attempt to justify not allowing free travel for pensioners. I am surprised.
This issue moves outside the political arena as it involves looking after people and doing the right thing. If we were looking for political gain then we say nothing as you are doing a great job of loosing the election 3 years early. But it is about caring for some of the most vulnerable members of our town.
You should talk to your residents Nick and they will give you a true picture of how this is affecting their everyday lives. It will not go away because of that very reason, it affects their daily lives.
As an elected member I can not ignore the concerns of my constituents and will continue to campaign on their behalf.

miketually said...

"This issue moves outside the political arena"

How many Tory-run councils are offering free 24/7 travel?

Imperial Wizard said...

Can you get a bus from Darlington to the Wheatsheaf in Chilton?

Ian White, Hurworth 24/7 said...


Here Here,
There too many elected members "slinging a deaf un" now they have got in, you are also right this is not a political thing as I am not aligned to any party but out here in Hurworth/Neasham its the same story, my parents who live in the West End are equally effected so it must be everywhere in town.
The trouble is the "listening Council" DON'T

Anonymous said...

I live in Darlington and represent people in Darlington.

miketually said...

"I live in Darlington and represent people in Darlington."

Was the extra £300,000 factored into the Conservatives' alternative budget? How would you raise the extra funds?

I think the pensioners should get the free travel, and have suggested how to pay for it.

URKO said...

Sack Burns, Williams and Brown the top 3 paid waste's of space in town.

Replace with Chimpanzees, problem solved £500K saved and now a more adept team running DBC HQ.

Enough money to instate 24/7 passes and maybe some left to waste on "art".

Anonymous said...

It has never been the job of the opposition to offer funding suggestions as they are always ridiculed in the chamber.
However, since you ask. How about scrapping the plans to refurbish the council chamber, that would provide the first 100K.
I agree with encouraging the public into the chamber, Mike and i have encouraged this during conversations with people. However, for whatever reason, there is no current overwhelming demand, therefore no need to provide extra seating. When money is short, there is a need to prioritise. We all apply this to theory to our own home life, we dont get a new kitchen if the roof is leaking etc.
So i say when there is a demand for this, that is the time to be looking to address that need and allocating money.
But refurbishing the chamber in the hope that this attracts people to enter seems a short sighted decision when our pensioners are suffering.

Still Walking said...

Get rid of John Williams to encourage people to enter would work Gill.
Personally the problem with the public attending is getting parked and the silly times they hold these meetings, how about if the meeting involves/is regarding Haughton area or something in it hold it in Haughton and so on this way they will encourage the locals from each area to attend on issues that concern them!No one wants to sit through hours of boredom when their item is last.

The other thing is if the public can now speak at meetings how is it only one person can speak at a planning meeting for 3 mins?

Please explain more about this £100K council chamber plan I have the jist, just not the name of the einstien that suggested it?

Ian White 24/7 said...

The next council meeting is X day at 9:30 whats the point no one can get a bus before 9:30... see the irony, or is it strategy?

Disabled OAP said...

Free bus travel in perspective...

Its 5h1te