By Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North
There is one particular imbalance in the application of legislation relating to concessionary fares which I seek to redress via my Ten Minute Rule Motion – and that is community transport services do not benefit from statutory benefits of the concessionary card scheme, as set out in the 2007 Concessionary Bus Travel Act.
Anyone unable to make use of their concession on existing transport services as a result of disability, age or other limiting factor should be permitted to use it on other transport services, with operators reimbursed by administrators of local concessionary travel schemes. All eligible passengers should receive equal access to services. Community transport ranges from dial-a-ride service, Wheels to Work schemes for apprentices, demand-responsive bus routes, and community car schemes.
My proposals focus on services provided under Section 19 of the 1985 Transport Act. This allows not-for-profit organisations to charge passengers for providing transport to the people whom the organisation serves, without need to obtain a public service vehicle operator’s license.
Able-bodied pensioners who can use buses get concessionary fares. But there are disabled pensioners who cannot even make it to the bus stop, and they have to rely on dial-a-ride and other services and have to pay their own way.
Certain local authorities subsidise community transport services but this is sporadic.
It is not only unfair but contrary to the spirit of equality and of human dignity. In Blackpool the excellent Rideability charity requires all service users to be members, granting ‘half-fare’ services on presentation of their concessionary NOWcard with a blue stripe; any disabled person with a concessionary NOWcard with orange stripe pays a flat 50 pence per single trip.
Even as we speak, Blackpool Council is, I understand, looking to review the continued existence of the Rideability charity subsidised to the tune of £112,000 a year, and bring it in-house. The likely impact would be to restrict travel.
The Government has made £10m available to local councils to sustain community transport, and at least 60,000 community transport volunteers enable services to run.
An extension of the concessionary travel card scheme would benefit card holders, allow volunteers to continue making a vital difference to peoples’ lives, and support the Government’s clear commitment to the principle of community transport in all its forms.