How we use Cookies

Token gesture unappreciated

RUSHMOOR'S 13,000 pensioners must start using buses if they want to benefit from council travel concessions.

Financial assistance for parking, trains and taxis has been almost totally scrapped in favour of an annual bus pass giving half-price travel.

But some recipients have objected to the council taking away the chance to choose a concession suited to their lifestyles — and some councillors believe this is unfair.

Fred MacDonald, 69, of Aldershot, said: "We have a car — we are not going to start using the bus.

"What really annoys me is that council tax has gone up and now represents 11% of our pension, forcing me to continue working after retirement age.

"The parking tickets were just a little something in return. Now that has gone we will get no travel benefit at all."

Under new laws the council must provide half-price bus travel for anyone aged over 60 and Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Craig Card said that as a result the council decided to review the concessionary travel scheme.

He added: "Now men can claim concessionary travel from the age of 60 it doubles the number of people eligible.

"The council felt the best way to benefit the greatest number of people and those who need travel assistance the most was to offer an annual bus pass giving half-price travel."

But Mr MacDonald believes the Farepass is not a viable option for thousands of pensioners with cars.

He added: "This is not London where there are bus stops at every corner, going to most places, and at regular intervals. It's a bit of an anomaly in an area like Rushmoor."

Brenda Rayner, 63, said she had lived in Farnborough for 30 years and had never used a bus, adding: "You never see a bus and they are expensive, even at half price."

Cllr Card said buses were stuck in a vicious circle. "Until more people start using them the bus companies can't reduce their prices or put on extra routes and services."

But Mrs Rayner said pensioners did not want to walk to a bus stop, stand and wait for a bus then struggle back with their shopping, adding: "I want to know how come no-one mentioned this before the elections in May."

The proposal was put to the cabinet in February and endorsed by full council on April 10, but Cllr Maurice Banner said: "The item was on the agenda but, unless someone raises an issue on it, it wouldn't be specifically discussed by the full council.

"It could have gone through on the nod but a thing like this shouldn't really as it affects a lot of people."

Cllr Colin Balchin, whose wife used parking tokens, said he had not been aware of the change until he received a letter from the council.

Taxi tokens will now only be available to disabled people or those aged over 75.

Sean Orriss of A-Line Taxis in Farnborough said: "Of the £250,000 worth of travel tokens handed out by the council last year, £100,000 worth were redeemed by the taxi services.

"A lot of elderly residents rely on our door-to-door service, which has now been taken away from them."

But Rushmoor chief executive Andrew Lloyd claimed the scheme had resulted from a "comprehensive, cross-party study", the main objectives of which were to help those most in need and to look at how best to target the scheme to achieve that.

He added: "More money is being provided for the over-75s and this increase in the level of support for them is being made in part by being more focused.

"And the scheme will be undergoing a review — the group will be meeting in July and by September a report taking in feedback from these new changes will be received."

Alterations could be made at that point to compensate for any anomalies in the scheme.

Mr Lloyd added: "These changes have categorically not been driven by trying to reduce the financial cost to the council. In fact we don't know what the financial implications might be.

"It is simply that we are trying to target the scheme more effectively while trying to avoid any need for means testing, which is time-consuming for the council and not necessarily helpful to the applicant.

"We must remember that even with the changes it is still one of the most generous concessionary fare schemes in Hampshire."


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
Full newsroom contact details
Tell us what's happening in your area