First they came for the Taxi-cards..

I’m aware of the parochial nature of some of my writing. I am predominantly UK centric and generally make no apology for that which is reflected in  my audience. Today, I’m going to be particularly London-centric.

The story came to me from Twitter having completely failed to reach my notice through any other means. I’m not the most avid consumer of local media, to be honest. Occasionally, I read the Metro or the Standard but not regularly but I do tend to watch the early evening local news bulletins, just because it follows the national news. This story may well have flown straight over my head. A lesson in the usefulness of Twitter. It isn’t all about what people had for lunch and I’d urge more people to give it a go – but back to the story in hand..

Black Cab, London

Transport for all, reports that major changes (read cuts) have been voted through to the taxi-card scheme in London.

The taxi-card scheme allows those people who are unable to use public transport, to access subsidised transport by cab.

These cuts then, more than anything should be a real cause of concern regarding transport options for older people and disabled adults as it is going to have a significant effect on the people in the area that I work in and the community that I live in.

As Transport for All reports

At a meeting of the London Council’s Transport and Environment Executive Committee the following cuts and changes were voted through:

  • Increasing the minimum customer contribution to from £1.50 to £2.50
  • Reducing the maximum subsidy by £1.00 per trip
  • Ending double swiping
  • Levelling down trip limits to 104 per year in 2011/12 (one return journey a week) – A decrease in many boroughs

The effect of the reduction in funding will be different in different boroughs – they work in slightly separate ways at the moment –  but as we can see more broadly, localism in this government’s eyes seems to be all about deciding which ways to cut and whom to hurt the most.

As the site says, the ending of double swiping is going to be a particular concern. Taxi-cards have a limit of about 3/4 miles and if you want to travel further in London, ‘double-swiping’ occurs where two journeys are taken and charged for, to double the distance allowed.

Now, almost all the people I know who have taxi-cards, use them primarily for medical appointments or to get to day services (you know, the ones that have had their transport costs cut), so potentially this is going to add additional costs both to those who rely heavily on these services and potentially those who can afford it least. It may lead to further social isolation but perhaps the most invidious part of this cut is that we can see that it has been sharp and injudicious, targeting those who are unable to access public transport (that’s the criteria for getting a taxi-card) and the government’s mantra of ‘We are all in this together’ becomes ever more hollow.

The increasing of the contribution from £1.50 to £2.50 may not sound like a lot but it is to people with limited fixed incomes.

I refer a lot of people to the taxi-card scheme. We recommend it especially as our own departments’ transport costs have been slashed.

But it was flexible and it allows greater independence from ‘group transport’ for people who are unable to use public transport.

If changes need to be made, so be it, but this has been done without consultation and without thought to any of the repercussions of the potential effects. Perhaps if there had been some analysis of the ways in which taxi-cards are used, it would be seen as a saving to be made by providing this service, rather than as a cost to bear.

As Faryal Velmi, the Director of Transport for All, says on their website

These changes were rushed through with no opportunity for Taxicard users to have their say.

“In a context of unprecedented cuts in public sector spending that will cut disabled people’s jobs, access to vital services and social care, housing, and income from benefits, these cuts and fare increases to Taxicard will mean greater poverty for thousands of disabled and elderly people who already have to survive on low incomes. For some it could lead to greater isloation and becoming housebound“.

“More time is needed to carry out a full consultation and come up with a fairer way of funding Taxicard across London – making sure all boroughs contribute their fair share and that TfL funding towards the scheme is distributed equitably.”

“A disabled and older residents prepare for Christmas, we urge councillors to not play Scrooge with such a vital lifeline service – let’s have more time to discuss how Taxicard can be funded.”

Unfortunately, I fear it is too late now. Had I known it was on the cards, so to speak, I would have actively campaigned against it and I know most working alongside me would as well. We see the day to day differences that these initiatives make on peoples’ lives and for me, it is indicative of the haphazard ways that the cuts are being made. Slash and burn with no thought to future potential need or the value of quality of life.

I understand that cuts need to be made, but surely there should have been some kind of consultation process? This is a tiny battle and perhaps not the most significant in broad terms but I think it is indicative of the way that some of the cuts will be made in the future and if they don’t directly affect us, we may never know.

3 thoughts on “First they came for the Taxi-cards..

  1. The taxi cards issue is an illustration of whats happening and what to expect. Its cruel, and as you say by default targets the most vulnerable. There is no argument about that, its a fact!
    Only thing Id disagree with is ,…”cuts have to be made”, they really really dont, there are so many alternatives being explained by UNISON, amongst others. A Robin Hood Tax on banking transactions could bring in billions world wide, but the point is the government wants to destroy the state, and when/if times get better have no intention of giving back services they have cut.
    Sorry if you didnt mean it quite how i interpreted it, I go into automatic pilot now everytime i see anyone say or write “cuts needed…

  2. Thanks for this. It’s a cut which will hugely affect disabled and older Taxicard users. More ppl will become housebound and isolated and the lack of consultation has been insulting.

    However, its not entirely too late to change things. Councils now have the choice of how they will act on London Council’s decision, and whether to pass on these deeply wrong cuts to Taxicard users or to cover this incredibly useful scheme from their own budgets. A small cost relative to other cuts they are facing.

    Islington Council has made the decision to preserve double swiping for example. Other councils are considering what to do, so best to contact the local council member who deals with social care and ask them to save locally what is one of the most successful and popular travel schemes for local and disabled people.

  3. I’m really concerned about this cut and how it will affect me.
    I currently have a taxicard which I use pretty much exclusively for transport to my regular hospital appointments. Using a double swipe each way, a return trip to hospital currently costs me around £10 to £15. When these changes come into place it will cost me around £30 to £40 each time I attend the hospital.

    I have no objection to the increase in the minimum contribution, it remains quite a low amount. But I cannot see the logic behind stopping double swiping. Why would the council wish to stop me using four of my trips to get to hospital, but would allow me the same four trip subsidies if I were to use them for an unnecessary short journey.

    Sadly the reasoning seems to be that they expect to save money by stopping the subsidy of these essential longer journeys to medical appointments as they know from their statistics that without double swiping trip allowances will go unused as the card holders conditions prevent them from taking short local trips for social or recreational reasons. The only way stopping double swiping will save any money is if it makes the card unusable, so this must be what they intend.

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