Councils are going to be hit hard by a government plan to halve Freedom Pass funding. An agreement made in 2008 was supposed to guarantee £58m for London's pensioner travel in 2010/11, but Transport Minister Sadiq Khan is "re-opening consultation" on withdrawing £29m of it. The reasoning? Money is now allocated not by numbers of pass holders but by journeys made, and London's grey-haired ones aren't making enough of them. The government wants to spread the cash around the country instead.
It's a blow for the Councils, who earlier this year agreed to finance the scheme for five years in return for persuading Boris to drop the TfL 'reserve scheme', which would impose funding levels if the councils couldn't agree. If London loses the government funding, we could see either a rise in council taxes or a cut in services. That's another blow for councils eager to trumpet low, frozen or even cut tax rates - in the run-up to next year's local elections, naturally. We can expect an average fall of 0.28% across the capital, but what will have to give to pay for it?
In other transport pass news: the Mayor's new Veterans Pass scheme has been taken up by 3,500 armed forces vets, about 900 more than was expected. The concessions cost TfL about £700k a year but, at a time when soldiers can't even get into Tiger, Tiger after risking life and limb, it's probably the least we can do.