From Richard Worrall, Love the Bus Pass campaign co-ordinator, Walsall, West Midlands:
I’M WRITING to invite all your readers, old and young, to request copies of the Love the Bus Pass petition, and help the campaign reach 100,000 pen-on-paper signatures by the end of August (currently we’re on 42,000).
They will be delivered to Downing Street on September 10, when we will also lobby our respective MPs. County Press readers are welcome to join us.
The petition is the first major step on the way for this non-partisan campaign, which aims to get all major parties contesting the General Election to pledge to retain the England bus pass as a universal entitlement, free at the point of use. The campaign is supported by the National Pensioners’ Convention.
Here’s the problem — while all major parties pledged before the 2010 election to keep the pass, high-ranking Coalition politicians soon started to call for 'reform’. In 2011, Brandon Lewis MP, protege of Eric Pickles, stated on the Conservative Home website the scheme had never been affordable, albeit his party hadn’t wished to publicise this before the election, for fear of 'alarming’ voters.
Nick Clegg then called for a ban on 'millionaires’ joyriding on the buses, which would save next to nothing but is a neat way of destroying the principle of universal entitlement and bringing in means testing, with the bar being lowered over time to exclude more and more pass-holders.
In mid-2012, the press reported David Cameron, if returned in 2015, would legislate to abolish the pass in it present form. Again, this January, he refused to commit to retaining it.
The huge social, economic, health and well-being benefits of the pass are at risk: politicians of all parties need to understand that they attack the bus pass at their electoral peril.
Readers can request petition forms and more information by e-mail, for printing off and signing, firstname.lastname@example.org by phone 01922 641084 or post 46 Winn House, Burrowes Street, Walsall, West Midlands, WS2 8NW, giving name and address, and campaign material will be posted to you.