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Islington Tribune - by PETER GRUNER
Published: 2 October 2009
Freedom Pass funding shortfall row

Town Hall chief calls on MPs to ensure pensioners will not lose out on free transport benefits

TOWN hall leader Councillor Terry Stacy and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn have become embroiled in a row over claims that pensioners’ free travel passes are under threat.
The Freedom Pass – which allows people over 60 and the disabled free travel on public transport in the capital – is regularly subject to speculation because it is so costly.
Mayor London Boris Johnson has indicated that his administration will not guarantee funding for the pass if the government reduces its input.
Lib Dem Cllr Stacy said he fears that a financial shortfall means the government is planning to cut £50million from travel passes in London. It would mean, he said, that pensioners would only be able to travel free on buses, but not Tubes and trains.
As government funding does not meet the full cost of the scheme, Islington Council provided £5m last year alone. If the government reduced its funding the council could have to consider putting in another £2m.
Cllr Stacy said he had written to Mr Corbyn, Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry and the Transport Minister challenging them to oppose any plan to axe or reduce the Freedom Pass.
Ms Thornberry said she was investigating Cllr Stacy’s claims.
Cllr Stacy said: “Islington’s elderly should not have to suffer just because Labour got its sums wrong on their national free bus travel scheme.
“To add insult to injury Islington’s two Labour MPs haven’t even bothered to respond to my call to save the Freedom Pass. Nor have they even bothered to try and halt the plan in its tracks by bending the Minister’s ear.”
Mr Corbyn said that it was Labour who introduced the pass in the first place and former Labour Mayor Ken Livingstone who extended it.
He said: “I’m not aware of any threat to the pass and I will do everything I can to support it. Cllr Stacy knows full well that I will fight for the right of pensioners to keep their travel pass.”
George Durack, chairman of the Islington pensioners Forum, said he thought it unlikely that any party will touch the pass before next year’s general election.

• The Freedom Pass gives all Islington pensioners over 60 and the disabled free travel on all buses, Tubes, the DLR and suburban mainline trains in London.

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