Bus passes: why are we waiting?

I  – and my  colleagues – are  increasingly concerned about SCC’s failure to keep to their promise to the elderly and disabled of Suffolk and revisit their decision about time restrictions on concessionary bus passes.

It’s eight full months (July 2011) since Suffolk county councillors unanimously passed the motion proposed by me, as Lib Dem Transport spokesman,  and pledged to look again at concessionary bus passes.  This was because SCC’s Tory leadership had decided to provide these  travel passes at little more than the ‘statutory UK minimum’  –further details here. (The ‘statutory UK minimum’ argument, by the way,  is a good excuse but a bad decision because problems of transport are notoriously more difficult and disabling for those  of us who live in rural areas like Suffolk than in the more urban areas of the UK. ) The changes to Suffolk’s concessionary passes have affected 140,000 people, 7000 of whom are disabled.

Despite the huge cross-party support for my proposal  – all county councillors agreed that these changes are causing genuine hardship to many people with few if any alternatives – eight months on, nothing has happened.  The 133,000 elderly and 7,000 disabled bus pass users of Suffolk are still waiting for the Cabinet to get around to looking into the problem.

The costs of reversing these past decisions are estimated as £202,174.00 – 0.019% of SCC’s annual budget.

SCC decisions are made these days by the 14 members of a one-party Cabinet behind closed doors –  and only they can vote on them!  Not only does this system make a nonsense of the concept of democracy but it also creates ‘bottlenecks’ whereby urgent concerns – like the ones about concessionary passes – get sidelined.  Never was there a clearer example of why this system doesn’t work, and needs to change.  It is the very stereotype of councils getting enmeshed in process and not caring about outcome.”

Reversing the concessionary pass decisions would support full, affordable participation in society to two valuable groups of Suffolk residents: those who do not want to let their disability stand in the way of their achievements and those who do not want to let their age confine them to home.  These people deserve to have their anxieties respected and allayed as soon as possible, while it seems only a democratic sine qua non that the concerns of so many of the County Councillors who represent them  should not be put to one side.

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