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Concessionary fares' funding could hit disabled people - Howarth

February 23, 2009 11:54 AM

David HowarthSome elderly and disabled people could have been left worse off by the concessionary bus fares scheme fears Cambridge MP David Howarth.

He is worried they could have been affected by local councils withdrawing 'companion passes', for carers accompanying disabled passengers, because they could no longer afford to fund them under the new national travel scheme.

Mr Howarth is quizzing ministers to discover the extent of the problem which could also mean concessionary pass holders are not entitled to travel at peak times.

"The government has been negligent in the way it has funded this scheme," said Mr Howarth, "and I am worried that it has left many carers paying full fares.

"Many local authorities are struggling financially to meet the demands of the concessionary fares scheme and I am worried they are forced to cut back on these discretionary elements.

"I am a great supporter of the concessionary fares scheme in principle, but believe that the government needs to act now to introduce a fairer deal on funding."

The issue was raised with Mr Howarth by members of Cambridge's Speaking Up, which empowers people with learning difficulties, disabilities and mental health problems to speak up for themselves.

Now Mr Howarth has raised Parliamentary Questions asking how many local authorities have withdrawn companion passes and peak travel entitlement and how many elderly and disabled people have been affected.

He has also asked whether a disability equality impact assessment was conducted prior to the introduction of the concessionary travel scheme and, if so, whether it addressed the impact of the lack of government funding for the discretionary elements of the scheme operated by local authorities.