Northumberland County Council’s Labour Group has launched a campaign to back free bus passes for pensioners and the winter fuel payment.
Earlier this year, speaking to the Huff Post UK, Lord Porter, the Conservative chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), called for an end to free bus passes for the elderly and for the automatic paying of winter fuel allowance to pensioners to be scrapped as a way of saving money that could be reinvested into social care.
On the bus pass, he said: “We should drive it back to half-price for pensioners. It would still encourage people to use buses and allow companies to generate cash.”
Meanwhile, on the winter fuel payment, he said: “People get it whether they want it or not, but we should just make it something you have to ask for – you have to request a payment.”
The issue was then raised in Derbyshire, where the Tory council leader was reported to have said he supports Lord Porter on this issue.
An online petition has been launched – http://bit.do/save buspass – and now Northumberland Labour has said that ‘every pensioner in the county can expect to be asked to sign the petition on paper and online’.
Labour leader Grant Davey said: “The health, wellbeing, social and economic life of most pensioners is enhanced by free access to buses and assistance with payments for winter fuel with the worst-off older people benefitting the most.
“The idea that the crisis in health and social care is caused by these benefits and that pensioners should pay for this is completely misguided. Indeed, it is bus travel and help with heating that keeps people healthy and reduces the overall care bill. No one should doubt that if these two benefits were to go then the crisis in health would worsen rather than improve.”