CAMPAIGNERS have criticised Portsmouth City Council’s decision to stop handing out travel tokens to the disabled.
The move, which comes into force next year, will affect around 3,000 vulnerable residents in the Portsmouth area who use them to get around by taxi or other means of transport except a bus.
While they’re still entitled to a free bus pass, many are claiming that isn’t good enough because services aren’t frequent enough and they don’t live close to a bus stop.
As previously reported, it’s part of the local authority’s decision to save £10m across all its services next year.
The allocation of travel tokens was part of the council’s traffic and transport portfolio, and removing it will save £148,500.
Muriel Deacon, president of the Portsmouth Pensioners’ Association, which campaigns for the rights of the elderly, said she felt devastated for those who will be affected.
‘I don’t quite know where the council is coming from with this,’ she said.
‘The council may say there is always a bus, but let’s be fair, you are taking a pretty big risk going on one.
‘If the bus jerks then someone who is disabled might fall over and they have to live with the repercussions of that for weeks to come. It’s not the easiest thing for disabled people to get on a bus.
‘In my opinion, most of them need to have a taxi.
‘Of course, they would have some form of help from their disability allowance, but that doesn’t go far and when you are disabled you need more money for things like heating.
‘A saving of £148,500 is small fry.
‘Looking at the bigger picture, are elderly people really being looked after? I don’t think so.’
Councillor Jason Fazackarley, cabinet member for traffic and transport, said that while the decision was a difficult one to make, savings had to be made.
‘We are just taking away an option,’ he said.
‘We are still offering people a bus pass and a discount using the council’s Dial a Ride mini bus service.’
‘The majority of people we work with take up the offer of a bus pass, but some people choose not to out of personal choice.
‘Unfortunately, because of the savings we have to make, cut backs have to be made in that area.’