Thursday, August 6, 2009

And now for something different

There is a bit of pother going on about free bus passes for pensioners. A report by the Local Government Association has suggested that it should be scrapped as it does not represent value for money. Ministers and council leaders have rejected the suggestion of means testing as they thought that would not represent value for votes.

Harry Phibbs in the Daily Mail suggests a "less demanding and less bureaucratic solution". Keep the free pass for the over-seventies but scrap it for the over-sixties. There is something in that argument.

Generally speaking our attitude, particularly that of unions, politicians and various charities, towards older people is about forty years out of date. Not only people live longer, they are also active longer, both physically and mentally. In a society which is getting older it is preposterous that this should not be acknowledged and people of sixty and over should be treated like old crocks just as they were fifty or sixty years ago.

Help the Aged does many good things and has some excellent charity shops. It also thinks that the aged are all those over fifty. Planet, what?

As it happens I have a better idea for saving money, though this may apply only to London. All children under 10 can travel free on any part of Transport for London, whether they are accompanied or not. All children under 15 can travel free on buses and trams though they need to pay a child's fare on the underground and other trains.

The previous Mayor, Hizonner Ken, used to wax eloquent about the scheme helping Londoners. I fail to see how, as it is extended to all children and Londoners pick up the tab through Greater London tax or ever higher fares.

This is an expensive and unpopular scheme. Those kids are a nuisance. It adds to another of our bogeymen: obesity in children. After all, they do not to walk anywhere, not even one bus stop; just hop and hop off and if the driver does not like that, tough.

Once upon a time there was a scheme whereby children in state schools got a free pass to and from that school if the distance travelled was more than 3 miles. No free passes to go anywhere else or to ride on stop to the shops. Others could travel half fare as long as they were in full time education. A much cheaper and more useful scheme. So, are we going to go back to it?

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