Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My Queen's Speech would bring fair deal on fares for our pensioners...

If I could slip just one line into today's Queen’s Speech it would be:

My Government will legislate to make sure all local councils offer a fair deal for pensioners on concessionary travel.


Pensioners and disabled people in the Deepings, Stamford, and Bourne get a raw deal from the Scrooges at South Kesteven District Council. I've come to the conclusion that things will only improve when new laws force them to change.

It is wrong that our pensioners and disabled people are penalised for using buses to get to local shops and hospitals in Peterborough, when those who live further away using the same buses actually pay less.

I’ve tried without success to get Lincolnshire County Council to act as an honest broker to develop a county-wide partnership of all local authorities working together for a fairer deal.

Sadly, SKDC are stubbornly not interested and despite years of trying, we still have the meanest scheme in the whole county.

It’s particularly galling when you see how other counties manage to deliver a far better service for their pensioners.

Cheshire County Council, for example, has just revealed that their county-wide scheme giving off-peak free bus travel for older people and people with disabilities has shown a tremendous 26 per cent increase in bus use since it began in April.

The County acted as broker for the whole of Cheshire in a scheme first brought in thanks to Gordon Brown’s Budget in 2005.

The Cheshire Districts Scheme offers the enhanced benefit of free off-peak travel and half price free travel on any local bus service beginning or ending in Cheshire, Halton or Warrington.

Labour’s Transport spokesman for Cheshire, Councillor Peter Byrne says:

There are a lot of older people throughout Cheshire who are benefiting from the free travel.

Where visiting their children or grandchildren had previously entailed a significant cost, now they don’t have to count the pennies before deciding on an outing.

I am also aware that people are simply taking advantage of the new free buses to get about more and enjoy life better.

The free travel is paid for by a special grant to the councils from the Government which has decided to use your taxes in this popular and rewarding way.

I believe Gordon Brown deserves congratulations.

Since SKDC and Lincolnshire County Council are clearly unable to get their act together, maybe the Queen’s Speech will bring fresh hope of a fair deal everywhere, but specially for pensioners and disabled people in Deepings, Bourne and Stamford!

15 comments:

donpaskini said...

I thought that from 2008 all local bus travel for pensioners will be free, including across local district council boundaries, exactly to deal with this problem. Equally, it's been a few months since I've had to deal with concessionary fares, so this might be wrong.

Brynley said...

Phil is write to highlight the pathology that prevents South Kesteven District Council from getting to grips with any public transport matter.

But Phil's proposed bit for the Queen's Speech misses the big point.

The government propose to reverse ten wilderness years for buses, by reregulating buses in the big urban areas.

So what about Lincolnshire?

The bus anarchy north of Morton has long been highlighted in this blog. My bus goes at 7.20am, then nothing!

For Labour to be taken seriously on public transport, rural areas would need to be included (as they were before Thatcher's Nick Ridley destroyed everything of value).

Geoffrey Brooking said...

The only thing you lot have done for pensioners is means-test them to the hilt!

fairdealphil said...

brynley:

Lincolnshire gets approx £1 million a year in Government money to subsidise rural transport.

This is new money that neither Thatcher nor Ridley or their ilk ever provided.

Investment in public transport has to be one of the big challenges facing any government over the next generation, particularly if the environment stays on the agenda as I hope it does.

We all want bypasses round our villages, but the more tarmac, the more cars generated.

We have to innovate new ways of getting more people out of their cars and onto bikes, buses, trains, trams - including north of Morton!

The A15 corridor - including Bourne - needs serious thought.

A few years ago I suggested a Park'n'Ride terminus in the area of the Deepings.

It becoming a more attractive idea as the traffic builds.

Thoughts?

fairdealphil said...

Geoffrey:

If you're against means testing pensioners, do i assume you condemn the tripling of home care charges by your Tory friends who run Lincolnshire County Council?

Many currently pay the full whack of £40 a week because they decline to be means tested.

The Tories are putting the weekly cost up to £120 a week - the only exemptions will be by means testing.

fairdealphil said...

Geoffrey:

What's our lot ever done for pensioners? R U Serious...?

Well, for starters Labour's Pension Credit has cut pensioner poverty by two-thirds and, for the first time, rewards those who saved for retirement.

Then there's the £200 annual Winter Fuel Payment - an extra £100 for over-80s.

Don't forget free TV licences for over-75s - both the above described as gimmicks by "your lot".

Free eye tests - I suppose that's just a gimmick too eh?

And we reduced the Tories’ VAT on fuel from 8 per cent to 5 per cent.

Labour has also rebuilt the NHS with the biggest hospital building programme ever in this country.

Nearly forgot: The New Deal 50+ is helping older people who want to work find a job paying a decent wage – so far it has helped over 100,000 people find work.

And then there's the outlawing of discrimination in employment and vocational training on grounds of age.

And have you seen the £80 million prevention fund which enables local councils to install smart alarm technology in the houses of vulnerable older people, helping to keep up to 160,000 older people healthy, safe and independent in their own homes.

Yeah, Geoffrey, but what's Labour ever done for pensioners, apart from all that...?

Michael Oakeshott said...

Apart from that? Raided their private pensions didn't you...

You must be proud(!).

Geoffrey Brooking said...

I prefer to the Queen's Speech before commenting on it.

But low and behold its all been leaked to the press first.

What a surprise!

Yesterday's Queen's Speech was yet another example of this Government being All Talk and No Delivery. So much so that I decided to look into the extent to which Mr Blair's divided and paralysed lame duck Government has failed to deliver on last year’s promises.

It was interesting. Of the thirty Bills read out by The Queen last year, almost half have been scrapped, delayed, watered down or amended because they were unworkable.

For example, the much trumpeted Education Bill was watered down after 69 Labour MPs voted against the Government’s proposals and The Bill was only passed with Conservative support.

The Health Bill was amended after a row broke out in Cabinet over whether the proposed ban on smoking in public places should be partial, as favoured by John Reid, or more comprehensive, as favoured by Patricia Hewitt.

Incitement to religious hatred plans were scrapped after The House of Lords inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Government and tore up unworkable plans to outlaw incitement to religious hatred in October 2005 with peers insisting that the Bill should be confined to the most serious cases of incitement, prove criminal intent and protect free speech.

The Welfare Reform Bill was again delayed due to cabinet in-fighting and the Government’s Welfare Reform Green Paper was delivered six months late due to disagreement in the Cabinet and the Labour Party over Tony Blair’s proposals for incapacity benefit reform.

The Mental Health Bill was scrapped entirely despite Patricia Hewitt originally promising a new Bill to ‘replace the Mental Health Act 1983’

ID Cards were also amended and delayed after massive opposition.

And The Violent Crime Reduction Bill which was Mr Blair's 60th act of Home Office legislation was amended after more Conservative pressure.

Therefore, with Gordon Brown almost certain to be Prime Minister this time next year, one must ask "How many of this year's Bills will actually be law this time next year?"

Anonymous said...

Geoffrey - I couldnt have put it so well myself - however we only need to look at health in Lincolnshire where 3 more non exec directors have this morning resigned - even they (including a particular Labour Councillor) have decided they can no longer be apologising for this governments total incompetence and mismanagement of health finance.Watching Labours Queens Speech broadcast was like watching the Teletubbies.The only people who believe all is well in LA La Land are those closeted in Labour corridors around this government.

fairdealphil said...

isn't democracy wonderful...

fairdealphil said...

Geoffrey:


Re: Your assertion that almost half of the Bills announced in the 2005 Queen's Speech were subsequently scrapped or heavily delayed is quite simply wrong.

The Government introduced or intended to introduce 48 bills in the session, of which 39 got Royal Assent (plus some other bills not envisaged at the time of the last Queens Speech).

Of course, some were changed during their passage through parliament (notably ID cards, Terrorism, Reg Reform) but its hard to think of a bill under any Government which has not been amended as it passed through Parliament.

We call it democracy.

None of the bills were 'unworkable'.

If the Government had not listened to MPs from all sides, you'd be accusing Blair of not being a listening PM...

Geoffrey G Brooking said...

I think you will find that 29 Bills were ammended to be exact.

Michael Oakeshott said...

So only 10 of Labour's bills in the Queen's speech last year were passed the form the Government desired? Rather proves his point doesn't it Phil. If you read his post again, and then your comment, then you will be slightly embarrassed Phil. He said too many of the bills had been scraped or heavily amended. And well...they have.

fairdealphil said...

amendments tell us we're living in a healthy democracy.

Michael Oakeshott said...

Or a feeble last legs Government. There weren't so many amendments in 1997-2001. Are we to assume that Britain having fewer Labour MP's makes Britain more democratic?