Local MP Alex Cunningham is warning that free bus travel for older people in Stockton is under threat from the Tory-led Government as the Liberal Democrats are seeking means-testing of free bus passes and Tory councils have asked the government for permission to restrict entitlement.
Despite David Cameron’s general election pledge, the Tory-led government has cut funding for concessionary bus passes, overseen the loss of one in five supported bus services and axed concessionary coach travel, affecting millions of pensioners and disabled people up and down the country who value the reduced fares when they live many miles from families and friends.
Labour will defend free bus travel for older people as a universal benefit to which all those who have reached the state pension age should be entitled, rather than introduce a costly system of means-testing which would undermine the scheme.
“Labour introduced free bus passes to enable pensioners and disabled people to use local transport to access vital services and avoid isolation. I know how valued they are in Stockton North and completely disagree with any suggestion that they should be cut or means-tested. Introducing a whole bureaucratic system of means-testing could well cost more than it would save by requiring a costly assessment of applications for bus passes.
“I am also very worried that the speed and scale of government’s cuts to local transport funding and the decision to cut subsidises to bus companies are together threatening one in five supported bus services. As a result, many pensioners are asking: what is the point of a bus pass without a bus?”