SNP minister Humza Yousaf raises ‘concerns’ over free bus passes

Scotland’s transport minister has been accused of “freely admitting” a potential shake-up over free bus travel after he raised “concerns” over their long-term sustainability. Humza Yousaf made the comments just weeks before the results of a wide-ranging consultation on raising the age of eligibilty.

He said it was important to find a balance with the scheme and ensuring affordability, due to Scotland’s ageing population. Mr Yousaf said there was “concern around the longer-term sustainability” of the scheme, with Scottish ministers considering raising the age of eligibilty. He added: “We know that we have an ageing population, an ageing demographic – as most of western Europe does – and therefore we have to find a balance between making this scheme fair, realising the benefits of it, and making it sustainable in the long term.

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apply National Insurance Contributions to pensioners’ earnings, think tank reports

A new generational contract is needed to tackle the big challenges Britain faces for young and old, covering a better funded NHS and care system, a radically reformed housing market, and a new citizen’s inheritance to boost the prospects of younger generations. This is according to the final report of the Intergenerational Commission published today (Tuesday).

Over the last two years and via 22 reports, the Intergenerational Commission – chaired by Lord Willetts and including TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady and CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn – has investigated the stresses and strains on Britain’s contract between generations, and what can be done to renew it.

The generational contract reflects the fact that we judge the success of a society by how it treats its old, and believe strongly that each generation should have a better life than the one before.

However, the Commission warns that the public are increasingly questioning whether Britain is offering young people the prospects previous generations have enjoyed. This is not just confined to younger generations either, with healthcare now the most pressing area of worry for British adults.

The Commission finds that much of this pessimism is borne out by the evidence it has uncovered:

Income and wealth progress for young adults has stalled

New analysis shows that the disposable incomes of millennials at age 30 are no higher than the generation before them (generation X) at that age – despite the economy growing by 14 per cent over the last 15 years. In contrast, the incomes of baby boomers at age 30 were more than one third higher than the generation before them.
Millennials are half as likely as the baby boomers were to own their own home by 30, and are four times as likely to rent in the private sector.
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Our comment: That ‘Millenials’ are less well off than previous generations is understood, and the need for appropriate levels of funding for the NHS, though we believe that the cost should be shared by all. Older people have already lost the Age Related Tax Allowance.

Pensioners given ‘ASBO’ for putting plants outside their flat

Two pensioners were slapped with an “ASBO” for putting plants and a welcome mat outside their home of 35 years.

John Whelan, 70, and his wife Alicia, 67, were recently handed an “ASBO” for trying to brighten up the communal areas of Sefton Park tower block in breach of fire regulations.

Former project manager Mr Whelan said the corridor has been left looking like a ‘prison’ since residents of York House on Croxteth Drive were ordered to remove any decorations.

An injunction, which has been seen by the ECHO, was issued to Mr and Mrs Whelan in January, forbidding the couple from ‘placing any items in the communal areas’.

Mr Whelan claims the “ASBO”, which lasts for the lifetime of the couple’s tenancy, could result in the couple being evicted – if they were to break the conditions of the order.

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Our comment: is this really what ASBOs were intended for ?

Britain’s bus network has shrunk to levels last seen in the late 1980s

Rising car use and cuts to public funding are being blamed for a loss of 134 million miles of coverage over the past decade alone.

Some cut-off communities have taken to starting their own services, with Wales and north-west England hardest hit.

The government has encouraged councils and bus companies to work together to halt the decline.

One lobbying group fears the scale of the miles lost are a sign buses are on course to be cut to the same extent railways were in the 1960s.

During that decade thousands of miles of track were scrapped and hundreds of stations closed following a report by British Railways Board chairman Dr Richard Beeching.

Chris Todd, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “We are not talking a loss of that level, but we are heading that way.

“We live in a society that is quite prepared to completely abandon certain groups of people and leave them with no options of getting around.”

Communities around the UK say the shrinking bus network is leaving people unable to reach basic services such as shops and GP surgeries.

Our comment: How much bigger might the decline in services be without the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme which was introduced nationally in 2008 ? Crises of viability of local bus services throughout England are likely to have arisen from one end of the country to the other.

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Fight for all women to receive free bus passes from 60

A Carlisle lady calls for support for a petition to reduce the qualifying age for a bus pass to age 60 in England. Christine Russell thinks it is unfair that women in parts of the country get a free pass at age 60, while others are forced to wait until they are 65 or more..

Our comment: And to rub salt into the wounds people in Scotland can get a bus pass at age 60, which also entitles them to free standard class rail travel on journeys to and from Berwick-upon-Tweed and Carlisle

Understandable how people in England feel where passes are now only available from about age 65 and increasing further in the years ahead, whilst in Scotland, Wales & N Ireland passes are available at age 60.
PS: why is the campaign for women only ?

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Sign the petition

Major errors in government judgement on local authority funding apparent ?

George Osborne boasts of having reduced the government’s financial deficit through continued austerity,  but it appears clearer by the day that a significant part of the cuts were based on negligent misjudgements of the ability of local government to absorb those cuts whist maintaining essential services.   And since May has become prime minister, we have had an autumn statement and a spring budget that have barely deviated from George Osborne’s spending plans.

It is  difficult to come to any other conclusion when major Tory shires are making the headlines by their ability to manage major deficits in funding – and the warnings were there a year ago Surrey County Council had plans to cut millions of pounds from frontline services in face of Conservative austerity.  Surrey council has backed away at the last moment from a controversial plan to poll voters on a 15% rise in council tax, mainly to pay for social care, instead recommending a rise next year of just under 5%.

Surrey “Britain’s richest county” is facing a £100 million cash crisis as scores of councils struggle to close budget deficits, an investigation has found.

Surrey County Council has one of the worst financial shortfalls in the country, according to research seen by The Times. The disclosure came as nearly every part of England warned of tax rises to make ends meet and half of local authorities prepared to cut services for children. Nine out of ten councils will be millions of pounds over budget by the end of the financial year.

Surrey’s woes will alarm Downing Street as it is a solidly Conservative council and the county is represented at Westminster by seven senior government ministers.

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Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council quietly issued a section 114 notice last Friday to signal that it had effectively gone bust, a victim of rapidly shrinking income and rising demand for the social care services it must legally provide. It is the first town hall to be brought down by austerity, but it may not be the last.

The surprise is not so much that it happened but that it took so long. The county has been stripping back its budget for years. Even in 2014, when it unveiled its ambitious (and ultimately futile) “next generation” plan to try to put the council on a financially sustainable basis, it warned that meeting the demands of another five years of cuts was “getting towards the impossible”.

Consultation on bus pass age qualification in Scotland closed 17th Nov 17 – announcement imminent ?

In Scotland people aged 60 or over are holding their breaths whilst the outcome of The Scottish Government’s consultation on the future of bus pass entitlement in Scotland is awaited. The closing date for responses was November 17th 2017. In brief the 3 options consulted on are:

  1. make no change to the scheme, leaving the eligibility rules as they are (i.e. age 60); or
  2. raise the age of eligibility for both men and women in one step from 60 to the (female) State Pension age (which will be 65 in November 2018 and will increase to 68 over a number of years )
  3. raise the age of eligibility for men and women progressively towards the State Pension age (see 2 above) by annual increases of one year or half a year to the age of eligibility.

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Social care postcode gap widens for older people

Older people in England’s most deprived areas are twice as likely to lack the help they need for basic acts, like using the toilet or taking medicine, compared with those in the richest neighbourhoods, according to figures that expose gross inequalities in access to social care.

The official analysis is another sign that years of cuts have damaged the ability of councils in poor areas to meet the growing demand for care, potentially putting significant pressure on the NHS. It comes on the back of the crisis over social care that is still unresolved. There have been a series of warnings about a multibillion-pound funding black hole and increasingly severe consequences for the health service.

A third of men aged 65 and over in the most deprived areas (33%) have an unmet need for at least one so-called “activity of daily living”, such as washing their face and hands or getting out of bed. In the least deprived areas the figure falls to 15%. Meanwhile, 42% of women over 65 in the most deprived areas have an unmet need for at least one such activity, compared with 22% of their counterparts in the richest areas.

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Theresa May’s chaotic Cabinet reshuffle


Theresa May has appointed Brandon Lewis as the new chairman of the Conservative Party as part of her eagerly anticipated Cabinet reshuffle.

Mrs May has moved David Lidington from his role as Justice Secretary to become Damian Green’s replacement as Minister for the Cabinet Office.

However, Mr Lidington has not been handed Mr Green’s former title as First Secretary of State – effectively de facto deputy prime minister – but his new job will hand him significant…

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NHS hospitals in England made £174m from car park charges in 2016/17, and NIL in Scotland or Wales

Car Parking Charges

NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.

Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.

Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.

The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.

Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate – sent direct to you
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The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.

Our comment: A founding principal of the foundation of the NHS was created out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. We regard the way hospitals are charging for hospital parking is incompatible with that principal.

Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

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proposal to raise eligibility age for concessionary travel could have damaging effect on bus services in rural Scotland

The Scottish Government’s proposal to raise the eligibility age for concessionary travel could have a damaging effect on bus services in South-West Scotland, SWestrans, the area’s regional transport partnership, has warned.

Responding to Transport Scotland’s concessionary fares consultation (LTT 15 Sep), SWestrans says that any raising of the age eligibility criteria could see the number of bus journeys fall.

 

Scottish Borders Council backs free bus pass age rise

Sad to hear,  but

Councillors in the Borders have backed increasing the age at which people are eligible for a free bus pass to the state pension age.

The Scottish government is consulting on changing the qualification criteria.

It could mean people aged 60 and over would not automatically be entitled to free bus travel in Scotland.

Scottish Borders Council backed increasing the age but also wanted to ensure people with disabilities kept getting the pass regardless of age.

However, in neighbouring Dumfries and Galloway the region’s transport partnership – Swestrans – has urged no changes to the scheme.

It has said any move to raise the age level could threaten local services.

The consultation on any changes was announced earlier this year.

It could see the scheme – introduced in 2006 – extended to Modern Apprentices and those on Job Grants but it is looking at the “long-term sustainability” of offering all those over 60 free travel.

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