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Being Labour, Cotterill on the Council, Uncategorized

Tories mislead the public on concessionary travel

01.17.11 | 1 Comment

The Tory administration currently has a so-called consultation process about concessionary travel.

It is a disgrace. 

It is wilfully misleading, and apparently has as a key objective NOT listening to the legitimate concerns and representations of the people of West Lancashire.

The background to this ‘consultation’ is the council’s statutory duty to do in in light of the transfer of responsibilities from the Borough to the County Council in April 2011.  This was the subject of council agenda item in December 2010, where the Labour group made an amendment to the consultation proposals.  The amendment was to the effect that Council officers and members should actually meet with people affected by the changes, and have a discussion with them about the best way forward.

Our amendment was ignored by the Tories.  Not a single Tory actually addressed the content of the amendment, preferring simply to vote it down so they could get away for Christmas drinks.

So we are left with a paper/web-based consultation only, and no opportunity to look at the detail of what are actually quite complex issues.

But it gets worse.  A Tory councillor’s introductory statement to the consultation states:

Under the current system, West Lancashire Borough Council spends around £330,000 a year to give choices such as travel tokens and rail passes to elderly and disabled people in this area. Under the new arrangements, the money the Council spends is likely to be passed to the County Council. We will therefore be asking the County Council to continue these choices for residents of West Lancashire, but should this not prove possible it could cost this council up to £550,000 a year more to continue to provide these additional choices.  We will not receive any government funding for this.

Very technically, it could indeed cost up to “£550,000 a year more”. 

But it won’t, and to use such scaremongering in the introduction to a consultation in which the consultees don’t get to ask questions of the council is misleading in the extreme.

This is because only a small percentage of the total eligible population of around 26,000 actually does claim their current entitlements.  This year, omy 4,071 residents have claimed discretionary travel tokens, at a cost to the council of £114,ooo.

To suggest that the price will suddenly rise to £550,000,  with all 26,000 eligible residents (including people who are housebound or never use public transport for other reasons) now claiming them, is not quite a lie,  but it is about as close as you can get to a lie without it being one. 

It is a near lie deliberately designed to deflect attention from the fact that the Council has consistently refused to engage with rail operators, while pretending to have done so, about the real costs to the council of off-peak travel, with the result that older and disabled people in West Lancashire are treated like second class citizens compared to their neighbours in Merseyside and in Greater Manchester. 

The disgraceful conduct by the council doesn’t stop there. The introductory statement also says:

Councils all over the country will have less money to spend this year and West Lancashire Borough Council must make savings.  If it continues to provide extra choices on travel concessions for elderly and disabled people, this will mean less money for other services.

 

 

 

This is wilfully misleading statement. The making of in-year savings this year is NOT a necessity, and money spent on travel concessions does NOT necessarily mean less money for other services. These are issues of political choice, and to suggest otherwise is disgraceful.

The disgrace continues at Question 2 of the consultation:

Do you think the council should reduce spending on other services so it can continue to provide extra travel options for elderly and disabled people?

 

Again this is wilfully misleading, as it suggests that a choice between spending on concessionary travel and spending on other services is inevitable. 

It is not.  It is a political choice.

I wrote to the administration setting out these concerns, and asking for changes to the consultation.  I have now had a reply saying this is not possible.

The Tory adminstration stopped listening a long time ago.

 

 

 

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