Think tank urges bus pass move
Published on 21 February 2012 12:30 PM
A think tank has claimed that free bus travel should be taken away from older people as part of a £15 billion package of savings designed to stimulate the economy.
With an annual estimated cost of £1 billion, a Social Market Foundation (SMF) report claimed that the travel passes scheme added little to the economy and should be a low priority for the Government.
The report also suggested that cash could be saved by taking away free television licences and winter fuel payments from older people who are better off.
Report author and SMF director Ian Mulheirn said: 'The political debate on the economy has become unhelpfully polarised, with the future strategy presented as a choice between sticking to the status quo or borrowing more in pursuit of growth.'
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK, said: 'Removing free bus passes will lead to greater isolation for many older people who depend on their free bus pass to get out to the GP, to a hospital appointment or to visit friends.
'Already many older people live on the very fringes of our communities and we should be doing more to combat their isolation, not taking away their means to play a more fulfilling role in society.
'One third of all older households are in fuel poverty and many others are struggling to meet their bills, causing them huge anxiety and often forcing them into making decisions that affect their health. The winter fuel payment is a lifeline, especially during a time of high fuel prices.
'We know that older people are very reluctant to claim benefits even when they are in dire need and that is why the universality of the winter fuel payment is so crucial.'
Copyright Press Association 2012