Hackney, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Croydon stand to lose a total of £4 million in 2010 for their Freedom Pass schemes if Government plans to cut funding are accepted.
Freedom Passes, which are part funded by central and local government, give the elderly and some disabled residents in London access to free transport.
Sadiq Khan, Minister for Transport, announced recently that he was reopening the consultation on the 2010/2011 Freedom Pass budget.
The three year package that was previously agreed in 2008 granted London Council’s £58 million for this initiative. New proposals would reduce this by approximately 50%.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport has said that DFT is not proposing to reduce funding for the scheme as a whole, it is just redistributing existing funds amongst councils that previously received too little of the share.
The problem with this, as Councillor Merrick Cockell, Chair of the pan-London body London Councils, points out is that: “Boroughs have already budgeted for this funding and now London is facing having the amount of funding it was promised almost halved. Under this funding regime London is already disadvantaged, compared to other parts of England, and today’s decision could impact on the services boroughs provide.”
Faryal Velmi, Director of Transport for All, a London-based charity that campaigns for better access to transport for disabled people and the elderly, was shocked by the government’s plans. She said, “The direct result of these proposals – should they be put into action – will mean disabled Londoners everywhere facing much tighter and intrusive Freedom Pass eligibility assessments as boroughs struggle to make up for the unexpected loss of funding. This is unacceptable and must not be allowed to happen.”
Local Borough councils will find out on the 30th December 2009 whether funding cuts will go ahead as planned.