Plans to reduce free travel for blind people in Cambridgeshire thrown out

A Stagecoach bus
A Stagecoach bus
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Blind and visually-impaired people say they “will not be squashed” by Cambridgeshire County Council as proposals to withdraw some bus concessions in a bid to save cash have been thrown out.

Campaigners and residents with sight problems have hailed a victory as councillors voted to throw out proposals to cut back on “non-statutory” concessionary bus fares, including free travel for blind and partially sighted concessionary bus pass holders before 9.30am on weekdays.

According to a report which went before the council’s highways and community infrastructure committee on Tuesday (October 9), removing these concessions could help the council save cash to make sure they can cope with providing other services.

Yesterday (Thursday, October 11) councillors on Cambridgeshire County Council’s economy and environment committee voted to drop the proposals.

Cllr Lynda Harford spoke out against the proposals, saying they were a “red line” she was not willing to cross.

Councillors had previously heard fears the removal of concessions would be a further barrier to people getting into towns and accessing work, with Cllr Ian Gardener even voicing concerns people could be made “prisoners in their own homes”.

Lynne Hester and her guide dog Saffron were at the committee. She said blind and visually impaired people were “low hanging fruit” for the council’s budget, but they “refused to be squashed”.

Speaking after the meeting, Lynne said: “I wanted to come here today to make sure it did not go through without them having to face a visually impaired person.”

Michael Wordingham and his guide dog Mac were also at the meeting. Michael said it was difficult enough for visually impaired people to access towns and cities for work.

He said having free bus use was important not only for economic reasons, but was also important socially, helping people get out and about, combatting loneliness.

Councillors voted to reject proposals to cut other concessions:

. 15p per mile subsidy to users of community car schemes

. 50 per cent subsidy on dial-a-ride services for concessionary bus pass holders

. Free travel for blind and partially sighted concessionary bus pass holders before 9.30 on weekdays

. Subsidised taxi journeys in parts of South Cambridgeshire.

Josh Thomas, Local Democracy Reporting Service