OLDER Person Pass Holders are being asked for their feedback on a proposal to end the free use of the ReadiBus service.
Reading Borough Council currently subsidises both Access Pass Holders (for disabled residents) and Older Person Pass Holders for the free use of ReadiBus – the dial-a-ride bus service which offers transport for people with restricted mobility.
As part of a budget proposal earlier this year, the Council consulted with disabled residents on a package of changes for Access Pass Holders, including ending the free use of the ReadiBus service. The decision on whether to take this element forward was deferred pending consultation with Older Person Pass Holders, who also currently benefit from the Council subsidising free bus travel on ReadiBus.
The Council is writing to all Older Person Pass Holders currently registered to use ReadiBus services with a questionnaire, in order to better understand the impact of the proposed change. There is also a dedicated webpage where people can leave feedback at www.reading.gov.uk/readibussurvey. People can respond to the consultation in writing by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to: Reading Borough Council, Concessionary Fares Consultation 2018, Transport Planning, Floor 1, Civic Offices, Bridge Street, Reading, RG1 2LU. The deadline for comments is December 19th.
Like many local authorities, Reading Borough Council continues to face significant financial pressures with Government funding failing to keep up with the rising costs of paying for increased demands for key Council services. Government funding for Reading will have been cut from nearly £58 million between 2010 and 2020, leaving the Council with a grant of under £2 million. That grant may be removed entirely by 2020 and there remains little clarity on how the Government will fund local authorities beyond that point.
In April 2017 the Older Persons Pass in Reading reverted to the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) operating after 9:30am and before 11:00pm Monday to Friday and anytime Saturday, Sunday or bank holiday.
Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“Reading Borough Council has historically provided a more generous scheme with additional discretionary elements for both holders of the older person and disabled concessionary pass. The scale of the budget challenge we face however means we now have little option but to consider each and every discretionary service currently subsidised by the Council.
“As the Council currently subsidises free travel for both older people and disabled residents on ReadiBus, it made sense to consult fully with both groups before a decision is taken on whether to take either element forward.
“We would encourage as many people as possible to take the time to pass us their feedback so that we can fully understand the impact of the proposal.”
A final decision on any future changes to both the Access Pass and Older Person’s Pass schemes will be taken at a future meeting of the Council’s Policy Committee. All responses will be considered alongside the Council’s financial position. Any changes to the scheme that are approved by the Committee would then not come into effect until 1st April 2019.