Fears after cuts to ‘vital lifeline’ Taxicard service for disabled and elderly

London Councils says change is necessary for service to survive

DISABLED and older people are facing a miserable 2011 after a scheme which gave them freedom of movement was slashed.

From January 4 the 2413 Hackney users of the Taxicard scheme for subsidised taxi travel will suffer a double whammy after London Councils, voted to:

- increase the fare paid by users by 67 per cent

- cut the number of trips allowed per year by 30 per cent

- reduce the cap on the cost of allowed trips, by �2

- end ‘double swiping’ which allows holders to use two of their trips in one go and double the distance they can travel.

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People whose mobility issues mean they cannot use public transport or have restricted access to it have been entitled to the card to help them get about.

For many it is the only way they are able to go shopping, see friends or even access essential medical services.

But the cost of the scheme, jointly funded by London Councils on behalf of the capital’s local authorities and Transport for London has grown to �20 million across London, leading to fears of a future funding shortfall.

A spokesman said: “This scheme continues to be highly valued by the boroughs which is why there has been no cut in the budget. But we must take action to prevent the budget being exceeded as this could lead to the temporary suspension of the scheme until the next financial year. Regrettably this means we must review the charges made to customers.”

Some councils, including Camden, are bolstering the funding from its own coffers.

But Hackney Council, itself facing a �40 million shortfall in Government funding in the next financial year, has decided not to.

Lianna Etkind, campaigns and outreach co-ordinator at advice line Transport for All said her organisation had been inundated with calls on the issue from angry users worried that they would become prisoners in their own homes.

She said: “One lady called and said she used it to play bridge – she’ll have to stop that now. It’s seeing her friends or doing her shopping, not both.

“Of course council budgets are stretched, but increasing the number of people who are housebound or semi-housebound is not an acceptable way to make savings.”

Director Faryal Velmi, called Taxicard “a vital lifeline service”.