IT SEEMS that all the news is about cuts these days and this is no exception. Money available for bus passes for older people is being significantly reduced.
At the moment, responsibility locally lies with West Dorset District Council but as of April 2011, it will be with Dorset County Council.
Up to now West Dorset has been offering extra concessions e.g. free travel before 9.30am. Older people elsewhere in the UK – depending on the goodwill of their councils – have to travel after rush hour.
What seems to make sense in towns and cities where buses are busy with people travelling to work does not necessarily add up in remote parts such as ours.
Imagine you live in Melplash and need to go to Yeovil for the morning. If you can no longer take the 07.44, the first bus available is at 10.24, getting you to Yeovil at 11.20.
And if you want to travel from Beaminster to Weymouth without going around the houses, then you can no longer do it for free as the only bus is at 08.45.
The consultation ends this Friday, 14th January (it started on 3rd December). Seems a bit short but I have only just been made aware of this (then again, I don’t qualify for free travel yet!).
I understand that this consultation has had a postal survey and a web survey. If you qualify for a free bus pass, are affected by the proposed changes but have not been made aware, here is your chance:
A Dorset County Council spokesman commented: “Whilst the official deadline is 14 January we will be processing responses received for at least 5 working days after the deadline.”
He went on: “We are consulting, amongst other things, on the possibility of restricting the use of passes before 0930 on weekdays in West Dorset, East Dorset and North Dorset (this restriction already applies in Christchurch, Purbeck and Weymouth & Portland).
“The final decision will be made by councillors taking into account the much reduced government grant and the impact on passengers of such restrictions.
“It is, however, highly likely that where buses are infrequent officers will be recommending that exemptions are allowed (there are already precedents for this in areas where the pre-0930 restriction already applies).
“We are currently identifying those journeys likely to be recommended for exemption and it is quite a long list!”