Don’t withdraw Pensioners’ Freedom Pass – means test it

Highgate Village, London N6, 271 bus terminal

This is going to be one of those blog posts that will see me deserted by 75% of my, more well-healed, good friends. To compensate, it should also cause my daughter’s friends to offer me a never ending stream of drinks down the newly reopened pub round the corner. It’s a generation thing.

But, whichever colour of politics you daub it with, my view is based entirely on logic coupled with an ingrained sense of fairness. As it is also a guaranteed loser of pensioner votes, it will never come to pass, unless more Millenials suddenly decide to check out the inside of their polling station on election day,

Conservative London Mayoral Candidate in next week’s elections Shaun Bailey is suggesting that the Pensioner Freedom Pass be scrapped. The pass allows pensioners free travel on all London transport but has been suspended during peak hours since the Covid breakout.

This was meant to ease congestion and was ‘only temporary’. There are now mumblings about making the withdrawal permanent.

Withdrawing the Freedom Pass from pensioners must be the worst kind of economic stupidity. The resulting cost of fixing cash strapped pensioners’ mental and physical health as a result of being cooped up 24/7 is incalculable.

If funds need to be redistributed, by all means tie the Freedom Pass to an affordability database like the pension credit calculator, for example, but don’t just kick the crutch out from under already struggling pensioners.

The pension credit threshold already applies to the BBC licence fee, and should incidentally be used to calculate the winter fuel payment and prescription charges as well. 

British pension provision is spectacularly unequal, due to its reliance on privately funded pension plans. Wealthier pensioners are comfortably cushioned against the economic realities of life in retirement, while less well off retirees on a state pension, often of less than £100 a week, depend desperately on free travel when it is often difficult to get around. 
The same souls also need help towards keeping their home warm in winter, access to television for news and a little entertainment and obviously free health provision. 

Many better off pensioners complain about the prospect of having to pay something towards their travel card, while merrily forking out several thousand pounds a year for medical insurance. They don’t need a free travel pass.

Calculated properly, this is a zero sum game. Instead of universal support, based purely on age, let’s redistribute funds saved from those who don’t need them, to those who do need them. 

No one should have too much, while someone else has too little. Surely that is the fair way to move forward.

And I probably have too many friends anyway. But to the rest of you, mine’s a Bloody Mary round the corner at the “Drum and Trumpet”.