I’m writing to invite Observer readers to back the ‘Love the Bus Pass’ petition, which is supported by tens of thousands of people, hundreds of local groups, and the National Pensioners’ Convention. Strictly non-partisan, the campaign aims to get all parties to pledge before the general election that, if elected to power on 7 May, they will retain the England concessionary bus pass for older and disabled citizens as a statutory universal entitlement free at the point of use.
Last June, with some 42,000 signatures already collected, I wrote to local newspapers throughout England inviting readers’ support. In three months, 110,000 pen-on-paper signatures were collected - testament, both to widespread fears about the future of the bus pass, and to the huge influence of the local press in their communities. That instant, major, response meant that we could deliver our first instalment of 152,347 signatures to 10 Downing Street on 10 September.
Many thanks if you and your readers were part of that. And, if ‘Love the Bus Pass’ is news to you, please make your voice heard and sign up by early March, when we deliver another 100,000 signatures to No. 10, to make 250,000 all told.
To date, no political party has made a clear and unequivocal commitment to retaining the bus pass in its present form.
In fact, high-ranking coalition politicians began to call for ‘reform’ as early as 2011, starting with Eric Pickles’ protégé, Brandon Lewis - since fast-tracked to ministerial office - who wrote in Conservative Home that the scheme had never been ‘affordable’, albeit this was something his party hadn’t wished to come out with before the 2010 General Election, for fear of ‘alarming’ voters!
Nick Clegg then called for a ban on millionaires joy-riding on buses for free, which would save next to nothing - millionaires making few, if any, bus trips - but a neat way of destroying the principle of universality and introducing means-testing.
We simply must ensure all politicians understand that they attack the bus pass at their electoral peril! Readers may request petition forms and information either by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) by phone, giving or leaving name and address (01922-641084 or 448331); or post (46 Winn House, Walsall, WS2 8NW)
Love the Bus Pass Campaign Co-Ordinator
Walsall, West Midlands