A coalition of celebrities, trade unionists, older people’s groups and organisations representing disabled people yesterday made clear their support for London’s Freedom Pass, which provides free travel on public transport for over-60s and the disabled.
Mayor Ken Livingstone was joined outside City Hall on Wednesday (20 June) by pensioners and others make the case for the retention of the Freedom Pass. The protest marks an escalation in the increasingly acrimonious the row over what the Mayor calls “some politicians’ threat to the London Freedom Pass.”
A host of famous names including Michael Parkinson, Sir David Jason, Michael Palin, Clare Rayner, Richard Wilson and Prunella Scales have issued a joint statement against any attempt to reduce the guarantee of the Freedom Pass. The signatories to the statement say:
“We are seriously concerned that London’s Freedom Pass, which give free travel on public transport to over a million older and disabled Londoners, is under attack. Over the last few months we have seen repeated attempts by the London Councils organisation to abolish the Mayor of London’s guarantee of the scheme claiming that the London scheme costs too much.
The critics of the scheme tie themselves in knots by demanding changes to cut costs while claiming they really support the scheme. The Freedom Pass is unique to London. We have the freedom to travel on all forms of public transport and for longer hours than anywhere else in the country because the size of the capital means we depend far more on public transport. We ask all Londoners to join us in expressing our support for the Mayor’s guarantee of a London-wide free travel scheme for older and disabled people.”
Other signatories include Help the Aged, the National Pensioners Convention, George Melly, Beryl Bainbridge, Clive Dunn, Harold Pinter, Tony Booth, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, and Joan Bakewell.
The protests follow a description of the Freedom Pass earlier this month as a “stealth tax” by the leadership of London Councils. The group representing London boroughs has asked Parliament to remove the Mayor of London’s guarantee of the Freedom Pass during recent parliamentary debates on the issue.
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said “some councillors, MPs, Assembly members and Lords are trying to roll back this vital concession by stealth.”
“Today’s broad support shows just how important London’s unique Freedom Pass is to Londoners. No other concessionary travel scheme in the UK is as generous as London’s Freedom Pass, which entitles over a million older and disabled Londoners to free tube, bus, train and tram travel.”
“That’s why I will defend the Freedom Pass against threats to its future, from London Councils, Assembly Members, MPs and Peers, as long as I am Mayor of London.”
“The Freedom Pass is a lifeline for thousands of older and disabled Londoners, saving them hundreds of pounds a year. Those now threatening it have no idea the storm of protest any attempt to cut back on it will unleash.”
“The range of pensioner groups, organisations representing the disabled, trade unions and Londoners who have supported today’s lobby and signed up to the statement is a clear demonstration of the strength of support of the Freedom Pass.”
“There is no room for complacency but I am confident that the more older and disabled Londoners hear about this threat the bigger the movement to defend the Freedom Pass will become. It has my total support.”