New cuts and fare increases across London’s Taxicard system will be a “severe blow” to the freedom and independence of thousands of disabled and older people and push them further into poverty, say campaigners.
London Councils (LC) – the organisation representing the capital’s local authorities – has told the 32 individual borough councils that take part in Taxicard to limit the benefits of the scheme, which is used by 88,000 Londoners who find it hard to use public transport.
Four campaigning organisations – Inclusion London, Transport for All, London Visual Impairment Forum and Age Concern London – had asked London Councils to protect the scheme, which is funded by London boroughs and Transport for London.
The letter said the cuts and fare increases would mean “greater poverty” for thousands of disabled and older people on low incomes who were already facing drastic cuts in public spending.
They are particularly angry about the decision to end “double swiping”, which allows Taxicard users to use two credits on a single trip, doubling their range to six-to-eight miles from home.
Their letter said: “Ending double swiping is, for those with no other means of transport, effectively imprisoning them within a radius of a few miles around their house.”
Taxicard users will also have to pay at least £2.50 per trip as a contribution – an increase of £1 – while the maximum subsidy per trip will be cut by £1.
And they will be allowed a maximum of one return trip a week, an increase in some boroughs but a sharp fall in others.
Faryal Velmi, director of Transport for All, said the changes were “rushed through with no opportunity for Taxicard users to have their say” and that more time was needed for a full consultation.
A London Councils spokeswoman said: “London Councils’ transport and environment committee has recommended a series of changes and it is down to individual boroughs to consult and decide in their area.”
While this is true, councils that fail to implement the changes and then spend more than their allocated budget will be suspended from the scheme for the rest of the year.
London Councils said the changes were needed because Taxicard journeys had risen by 18 per cent, from 741,142 between April and August 2009 to 872,824 between April and August 2010.
Without the new measures, spending would exceed the scheme’s £19.2 million budget for 2010-11.
And she said the £1.50 minimum cost of a trip had not increased in more than 10 years.
But she was unable to confirm claims that the maximum subsidies payable per trip had also not risen for at least five years, cutting the distance disabled people can travel in a single Taxicard trip.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com