Bus pass ban ‘a disaster for old’

A Blackpool Transport bus performs a u-turn in front of Queen's Terrace, Fleetwood.
A Blackpool Transport bus performs a u-turn in front of Queen's Terrace, Fleetwood.
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PENSIONERS should be stripped of their free bus passes to help out the ailing economy, a leading think tank has announced.

The Social Market Foundation claimed the cost of free travel added nothing to the economy and scrapping it would save £1bn a year.

Efforts to find £15bn to ease the strain on the economy would also include halving higher rate pension tax relief and taking away winter fuel payments and free TV licences for wealthier pensioners.

The research has outraged those working closely with the elderly on the Fylde coast.

Alan Phizacklea, information and advice manager for Age Concern in Blackpool, said: “It would be a disaster for the elderly in Blackpool because a lot of them rely on their bus passes.

“It would make a lot of people isolated as they wouldn’t be able to afford to travel from A to B or have much of a social life.

“I quite often make appointments to see pensioners and they want to make it after a certain time when they can use their pass. It would be a huge chunk out of their pensions if they had to pay.”

Mr Phizacklea says steps to cut back entitlements to bus passes have become more severe in recent years.

People now only qualify for free travel when they reach pensionable age between 65 and 68 instead of at 60.

Mr Phizacklea added: “Changing the qualifying age was a bit of a shock and I think by time goes on it will be longer and longer.”

The Social Market Foundation conducted the report following huge cuts to services which they say could have been avoided had the Government looked at altering taxation and spending.

Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South, said the report should be treated with caution.

He told The Gazette: “The foundations of this report consist of many claims not based on any real considerations of other figures.

“It assumes all of the figures are biased and it’s not worth the consideration of residents in Blackpool.

“I think they should do their sums a little bit clearer.”

Bryan Lindop, customer services co-ordinator at Blackpool Transport, added: “It’s an interesting proposal, but I think there would be a real backlash because you can’t give something and then take it away.”