Tag Archives: elderly

Icy weather: love thy neighbour

Its very icy this week and the pavements and footpaths are horribly slippery – particularly in the shadows. Over the last 3 winters I’ve funded about 25 grit-bins around Woodbridge from my locality budget. They have been placed  in areas where volunteers have offered to help keep pavements safe. This means there ought to be one near YOU.

Gritting  Ipswich Road Woodbridge   (And if there isn’t you know why!)

Please think of your elderly neighbours and those more vulnerable than yourself, who may be housebound because of fear of falling.  Winter is not only the time for colds and flu, its also a peak time for broken bones. If – as happens in other countries – each of us made ourselves responsible for clearing the  pavement outside our house, many problems would be solved just like that!

 

Concessionary bus passes – no debate necessary?

Once again SCC Conservatives misuse Suffolk’s Cabinet system to stifle democracy.  This time, by forcing through an unpopular and unreasonable decision on concessionary bus fares for the disabled and elderly without allowing questions or debate!

Let’s face it – the easiest way to get people to do what you want is not to allow them any other option. And it does save the bother of answering awkward questions!

For the last 18 months my Lib Dem colleagues and I have been trying to increase the newly imposed restrictions on the bus pass scheme so as to offer free 24/7 transport to disabled pass holders, and travel from 9am for the elderly. Currently all pass holders are restricted to weekday travel from 9.30 to 23.00 . A tragedy for those for whom bus travel is the only option to staying at home; a farce for all of us rural folks whose buses stop in the early evening and run poorly or not at all at weekends (click here for details)

SCC Tories refer to our proposals as ‘enhancements’ and proclaim that the key issue is ‘one of budget priority’ (eg unaffordable – an argument that would be considerably more credible if we didn’t know how much they have stashed away at low interest in  reserves). In fact the issue is one of demand, of need and of legality. Using the word  ‘enhancements’ is rather cheeky. The current scheme was agreed last year and provides significant reductions to a very long term status quo.  The visually handicapped, for example,  had been eligible for free 24/7 passes since WW2!  And for many others, these passes are not luxuries. They are necessities.

SCC’s reductions to the status quo (or rather, the poor and unrigorous process by which they were arrived at) were the subject of a concerned letter from Britain’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission.  This underlined – amongst other things – the extraordinarily poor consultation and Impact Assessments Suffolk’s Cabinet had used to support their  decision-making:

‘Your decision-makers must be made aware in substance of the council’s duty to have due regard to the equality goals in the equality duties.  The ‘due regard’ must be exercised with rigour and with an open mind. It is not a question of ticking boxes.’

As many may know I’m the carer for a relative with a catastrophic health condition, and on the morning of the meeting, was confronted with an unexpected medical emergency. However I emailed four questions to be asked on my behalf. In vain. SCCs Conservative Cabinet decided not to examine its own poor  track-record on decision-making and evidence gathering – and waved their decision on Concessionary Fares through without the courtesy of any debate AT ALL.

J’y suis, j’y reste,” as the General said at Sebastapol.

This action stifled any public airing of their questionable assumptions on finances, their cavalier attitude to equality impact assessments and the shameful farce of their 12 day consultation. Just another example of how undemocratic the Conservatives want the Cabinet process to be.

Yet they could have retired from the field moderately gracefully – and with a perfectly reasonable saving of face. As the Tories’ claims about costs were made on the flimsiest of foundations, a reasonable response would be to agree to provide ‘enhancements’ to Suffolk’s 7,000 disabled pass-holders for 1 year and see how expensive this was in actuality.  Or did they not want to be proved wrong?

It is a disgrace that the disposition of such important issues  should be decided by this small group of unrepresentative individuals, who refuse to listen to reason or their electorate.

So much for Democracy in Suffolk.

Since writing this I have discovered Epilepsy Society have started a campaign for changes to the disabled persons’ pass to allow pass-holders to travel at peak times – with a companion if necessary.  (And if you have intractable epilepsy, a companion may be very necessary. ) Along with visual impairment, epilepsy is a condition where bus travel can be a lifeline – as I know from personal experience!

Shhh: Concessionary bus passes – the very QUIET Consultation

OK, the saga of Suffolk’s cheeseparing provision for bus passes for the disabled and elderly goes on and on.

Three weeks back SCC’s scrutiny committee decided that  Suffolk’s Conservative run County Council had NOT consulted fully, OR considered the impact of its decision (see here for details) when it reduced the terms of travel for Suffolk’s 140,000 passholders, 7,000 of whom are people holding disabled passes.

(And of which group I unexpectedly – about a year after this saga first started and I first got involved – became a member. Perhaps the Cabinet needs to ponder upon this. Make all your decisions about ‘them’ with care. Who knows  when ‘they’ may suddenly become ‘us’. Just saying).

I digress.

SCC  is now getting around to the consultation. And, bearing in mind it took them a full year to look at their decision the first time, they are moving pretty speedily, if remarkably quietly. So quietly that the Lib Dems  – as Councillors, as the SCC official opposition party, as the political group who asked for this to happen, and (in my own case, not only as spokesperson for Transport and representative of the elderly and disabled people of Woodbridge,  but also a disabled passholder,  and a 24/7 carer of another disabled passholder on my own account) – have been left out of the  loop completely.

I only heard about the consultation SCC is now doing for the Concessionary bus passes when it was mentioned in passing yesterday, by a spokesman for a specific disability group!

There are three elements to the consultation.

  1. A sample survey of the two user groups (that is, elderly pass holders, and disabled persons ) asking them to answer a questionnaire
    3% of pass holders eligible by age
    10% of pass holders eligible by disability
    20% of pass holders who have travel voucher;
  2. A survey monkey survey to the operators asking their experience of the concessionary fares scheme – eg. overcrowding issues ;
  3. Distribution of the questionnaire to user groups asking for comments either about the questionnaire or about the scheme itself:
    Optua
    RNIB
    Age Concern
    Outreach Youth
    Suffolk Family Carers
    Suffolk Consortium of User Led Organisations and Individual Disabled People.

Everyone else wishing to comment should do so via this email address: concessionarytravel@suffolk.gov.uk 

So, if this concerns you, don’t delay, email today.   The consultation finishes on November 9th!