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Author Topic: Free transport for most children in London - scrapped.  (Read 681 times)
grahame
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« on: July 14, 2020, 04:47:55 am »

From My London

Quote
The announcement that free travel for under 18s is being scrapped has been widely criticised, with people arguing it will hit the poor the hardest and have a disproportionate impact on the BAME community.

The change is being made as part of a government bailout to Transport for London, with measures that also include increasing the congestion charge, raising fares and halting free travel for the over 60s.

Sadiq Khan has slammed the arrangement, explaining that the deal needed to be done and that 'it was the only deal the Government put on the table'.

Headline is "These children will still get free travel on the London Underground and buses if Government changes go ahead" and article goes on to explain "The plan to scrap free travel for under 18s won't apply to everyone", citing free school transport in certain circumstances.

Personal view - removing free travel for children feels like a step in the wrong direction when considering the trips in "Mum's Taxi". It saves, with all the congestion and climate aspects such trips contribute to, and it also. It also takes away the whole ethos of making 'automatic' use of public transport for young people - wrong message, wrong social training, wrong result.  
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nickswift99
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« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2020, 09:33:17 am »

It will particularly impact travel into the Congestion Charge zone as driving won't be an affordable option, even at weekends.

As a result I would expect families will make fewer visits from Zones 2-6 into central London. This will have an impact on retail, museums, galleries and other venues.
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ray951
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« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2020, 09:53:39 am »

I am sure this isn't good, but families outside of London have always had to cope with paying for children on public transport although of course that doesn't make it right. Ideally all children across the whole UK should be free on public transport and not just those who live in London.

But as I have said before, how is it that pensioners, who have an income, get free bus travel but children, who dont have an income, have to pay?
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Celestial
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« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2020, 10:22:06 am »

I'm probably going to be in a minority here, but I don't see why children should get it for free, except for travel to and from school or college.

By the time children are able to travel independently, most, if not all, of their journeys will be discretionary. So if they want to head into town to meet up with their friends, why shouldn't they make a contribution to the cost?  When I was that age, if I wanted to get into town I never begrudged paying the bus fare, even when all I had was pocket money. We weren't a well off family either, in case anyone suggests it's alright for those who can afford it. Neither did my children, (although we often offered to pay).

As a society, those calling for things to be free always seem to have the moral high ground. Free bus passes for elderly pensioners paying higher rate tax on their comfortable final salary pensions, free tv licences for those in houses in Surrey valued at £1m, calls for free elderly social care so children can inherit that same house, whilst the state pays (which would be the biggest cross subsidy between the south and north if it ever comes in).

And back at the other end, free childcare for pre-school children. Started to enable mothers to go back to work and not pay all her income in childcare, (a not unreasonable policy decision). But then there were complaints for those where the mother (usually) didn't work, why they didn't get it too, "because we need some 'me time' too". Which probably translates to popping off to the nailbar or meeting the other mums for a boozy lunch in the local wine bar. (Yes, I did do the latter, but not when someone else was paying to look after my children.) 

All very well, but someone has to pay for these services, so if the user doesn't, its the tax payer who does.   

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« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2020, 12:34:08 pm »

There is a big political football being kicked around and its called the Mayor of London and London Assembly election in May 2021.

The TfL bale out by HMG is part of the move in this game, putting up the congestion charge was a counter move; the scraping free travel for under 18's will be kicked around again I'm sure
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2020, 12:41:58 pm »

A few points from Celestial to comment on:

On the matter of free travel, perhaps a distinction needs to be drawn between the accompanied and unaccompanied of the species. Whilst I agree that, in the same way as I did at that age, kids going on social leisure trips should contribute towards the cost of providing the service. But, for example, a family of four making a journey would have two adults already paying their fares which, in itself, would exceed the equivalent cost of travelling by car. To charge children in these circumstances may make public transport a very cost-ineffective option, and would do nothing to encourage those children into a public transport mindset.

When my kids were under 14, I had a Family Railcard which in those days charged a flat fare of £1.00 per child. Suffice to say that if I had to have paid a half fare back then, even at the railcard discounted rate, Shell and Esso would have would have got a lot more money out of me than British Rail would have done...

Celestial goes on to bring up issues which, in my view, are complete red herrings. The “wealthy pensioner having a bus pass” for example – Michael Heseltine has often been cited as an example. Can you honestly see the well-heeled actually getting on a bus? And even if they did, how much revenue is being lost when compared with how much it would cost to introduce means testing for bus passes, especially bearing in mind the number of appeals there would be from people “on the cusp.”

It is always an unwise move to base opinions on ability to pay on the resale value of domestic property. For example, my mother and stepfather bought a farm cottage on the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire border that they were previously renting in 1970 for £2000. He worked as a farm labourer/ hedge layer/ JCB driver all his life and never earned enough to pay higher rate tax. He is still there, now widowed and not in the best of health. At a rough guess the old man lives in a place worth about £750,000.

Will you tell him he’s too asset rich for a free TV licence? I won’t – he’s a cantankerous old bugger at the best of times...
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2020, 01:14:03 pm »

By the time children are able to travel independently, most, if not all, of their journeys will be discretionary.
They'll be making 10 journeys a week that are not discretionary. Okay, strictly speaking school is optional but then so is work.

Edit: I'd missed that journeys to school are free: but only under some circumstances. Does anyone know how many children in London this applies to (and how many actually claim it)?
« Last Edit: July 14, 2020, 01:21:47 pm by Bmblbzzz » Logged

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Celestial
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« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2020, 01:54:02 pm »

On the matter of free travel, perhaps a distinction needs to be drawn between the accompanied and unaccompanied of the species. Whilst I agree that, in the same way as I did at that age, kids going on social leisure trips should contribute towards the cost of providing the service. But, for example, a family of four making a journey would have two adults already paying their fares which, in itself, would exceed the equivalent cost of travelling by car. To charge children in these circumstances may make public transport a very cost-ineffective option, and would do nothing to encourage those children into a public transport mindset.

When my kids were under 14, I had a Family Railcard which in those days charged a flat fare of £1.00 per child. Suffice to say that if I had to have paid a half fare back then, even at the railcard discounted rate, Shell and Esso would have would have got a lot more money out of me than British Rail would have done...

It is always an unwise move to base opinions on ability to pay on the resale value of domestic property. For example, my mother and stepfather bought a farm cottage on the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire border that they were previously renting in 1970 for £2000. He worked as a farm labourer/ hedge layer/ JCB driver all his life and never earned enough to pay higher rate tax. He is still there, now widowed and not in the best of health. At a rough guess the old man lives in a place worth about £750,000.

Will you tell him he’s too asset rich for a free TV licence? I won’t – he’s a cantankerous old bugger at the best of times...

In terms of a difference between accompanied and unaccompanied travel, I agree that it would be appropriate to make a distinction.  The family railcard discounts feel an appropriate balance.  As an example, off peak fares from Bristol to London are:-

1A   : 63.10
1A, 1C: 53.65
1A, 2C: 65.65

So effectively, with one child the cost is lower, two children can travel for free, and any additional adults go for a third off too.

As for the position of your father, I don't think public policy should be based on how cantakerous people are likely to be. Those who live in a property worth a lot of money are able to release some equity through various equity release schemes if they so wish. Whilst I would caution against using these too early or for than a modest share of the property (say 50k in your example), they are a way of rebalancing one's assets to meet living costs. Many people use these schemes to fund their new kitchens, cruises, new cars, etc, (probably to an extent which is ill advised in my opinion), so why not for other purposes?

It all comes down to whether society wishes to subsidise those who have assets, albeit illiquid, at the cost of others in higher taxation.  If you explain to less well off young people in the north of England that they have to pay more tax because society is funding care costs to those with property worth hundreds of thousands or even millions in the south east, so that those assets can be handed to the next generation of already middle aged high net worth people, I suspect there would be some discomfort. Unfortunately the argument is never put like that.

It's not only the super-rich either. In my own position, when my father died about 5 years ago at 95 he left a relatively modest house (less than £200k) in Newport.  To look at him he was a poor pensioner, and didn't spend much. But he lived comfortably on his pension, balancing his income and expenditure, and didn't need a free tv licence, winter fuel allowance, or free bus travel to do so.  Had he had to pay for those, our inheritance might have been £20k lower split between the three children.  So has the state got good value out of those vital non means tested benefits he received? Not in my opinion.           
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« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2020, 12:45:31 pm »

I always found it a bit strange that in my team it was the highest paid and generally the best well off that got free travel in London. Nearly everyone in my team over 60 was at the top of the salary scale, already taking their final salary pension (remember them?) and often not paying National Insurance. Most, although not all, had also managed to buy a 'nice' property in London before prices got silly. Their free travel was subsidised by the apprentice engineer on the bottom of the pay scale and in a house share with about 4 other people. And our apprentices are not teenagers but often twenty or thirty somethings having a career change.

It also felt a bit strange that it was only certain postcodes qualified even though we all contributed towards the service in fares.

I think any benefits/subsidies should be essential, universal, targeted at those who need them and paid for by central government.

The TV licence is a good example of something that doesn't meet any of those criteria. If the government believes TV licences are a genuine social need then they should pay for it otherwise it just becomes politics. Why just the over 75s? Why not Sky subscriptions? Why not carers, people on benefits etc? Could it be because the former is more likely to vote? Ditto Winter fuel, prescriptions even the triple lock. Providing these to those who need them could allow them to be increased from the savings.

In the interests of balance I have to declare an interest in that I work for a certain large media organisation. Or will do for a few more months. Ironically my job is going as part of the savings to pay for the free licences.  Roll Eyes
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