concessionary bus fares were launched by Tony Blair with the best of intentions – to provide a perk to pensioners and allow them to make greater use of public transport.
What the new Labour leader did not make clear, however, was how the scheme would be funded once the initial launch money had run out after being fully exploited for party political purposes.
It was the same with community police officers – another grand gesture by Mr Blair who absolved himself of responsibility once councils realised that they would have to foot the bill for these two initiatives.
The consequence is the quite ridiculous state of affairs where councils have to provide ‘free’ bus passes from the public purse – politicians of all persuasions remain extremely reluctant to offend the ‘grey vote’ – but actually cannot afford to run sufficient buses, a problem particularly pertinent to North Yorkshire.
Given the shocking level of indebtedness confirmed by the Autumn Statement, there’s going to come a time when the viability of such giveaways has to be reappraised. Equally Tory peer Anne McIntosh, the former Thirsk and Malton MP, is right to highlight those senior citizens who would be willing to make a contribution towards their free bus travel because they have the financial means to do so. If anyone has any suggestions on how this could be implemented without creating another costly, counter-productive tier of bureaucracy, please come forward – your solution might be just the ticket.