Bus passes are not ‘free’

Published on Friday, April 27, 2012 - 11:06


LETTERSFrom R. W. Glover, Lake:

IN last week’s Letter of the Week, Maureen Phillips made valid observations on some pensioners’ attitudes but misguidedly referred to the bus pass as 'free’. This misconception seems widely accepted whereas the reality is quite different.

Bus passes are not a free gift. Along with winter fuel allowance and TV licences for those over 75, they have been given in lieu of part of National Pension. All governments have claimed that the lower-than-inflation increases to the basic National Pension have been justified by these add-on payments with the excuse that 'in real terms’ pensioners are better off. The sad thing is that because it appears to be a free gift it is quite popular with pensioners. The reality is this clever move has left them worse off, with pensions lower than inflation rates, year on year.

Government, on the other hand, has had tremendous financial benefit from this payment in kind. Where there is no take-up of these add-ons there is no cost. The most obvious areas of saving are where pensioners reside in care homes or have retired abroad. They do not qualify for winter fuel payment or TV licence fees and clearly will not be using their bus passes but do suffer the reduced pension because of them. There is also a large number of pensioners who just cannot physically leave their homes and consequently do not benefit from a bus pass but would have had the chance to enhance their lives if pensions had risen instead.

There are other benefits to the economy that most people do not recognise resulting in exercise they would otherwise not have had keeping them fit and reducing the burden on the NHS.

It also encourages them to spend whatever money they do have in various retail outlets they would not visit without the encouragement of the pass. The contribution to the national economy, particularly at this time, is helping the country through the recession and should not be under valued.

It should also not be forgotten that most have paid all their working life into a government scheme that promised a pension on reaching retirement age. Surely nobody would deny them what they have paid for?

It seems to me that better understanding is generally needed of just what the 'free’ pass means. To mistakenly use the term 'free’ puts it at risk of removal without compensation for its loss.

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