Bus passes are a universal benefit

The government must protect bus passes for pensioners as a universal benefit.

Our passenger group urges the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to reconsider putting this universal benefit into the wider Whitehall cap on welfare spending.

We argue that if it is included in the cap, it may have to be means-tested in future.

Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group represents 15 community groups and five local groups, including pensioners groups, and we are opposed to the means-testing of the bus pass.

This is because it would mean the most vulnerable miss out, because of the barriers in applying, leading to more isolation and social exclusion.

The dramatic reduction of pensioners with a bus pass would worsen the decline in passenger numbers, increase use of cars and thus traffic congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions.

The steeper decline in passengers would result in greater cuts to services, which then affects all passengers.

We demand that all three main political parties re-think their lack of commitment to protect universal pensioner bus passes.

Their argument that it is giving unnecessary hand-outs to rich pensioners just doesn’t stack up – that’s what a progressive taxation system ought to address.

The current universal system is actually much more efficient than bringing in a complex bureaucratic system.

We want all pensioners to be encouraged and enabled to use buses and other forms of public transport.

Vicki Gilbert

Chair of Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group