To help speed up the renewal of the outstanding Freedom Passes and demand that lessons are learnt for the future, Lynne Featherstone MP has written to Haringey Council and London Councils to report a catalogue of Freedom Pass renewal issues brought to her by local residents.
The intervention follows a flood of messages from local residents outlining various issues with renewing their passes, ranging from not being able to use downloaded forms, to photos and forms going missing, and difficulties getting through on the dedicated helpline.
The Liberal Democrat MP met with one of the many residents who have come to her for help. Denysse Edwardes contacted the Hornsey and Wood Green MP after repeatedly failing to get through on the helpline and when her numerous letters, emails and faxes went unacknowledged. Following Lynne Featherstone’s intervention, Ms Edwardes finally received her new pass last week; it had been lost as the Post Office had written down the wrong address.
Lynne Featherstone MP comments:
“I’ve been really amazed at the number of people who have had to turn to me to get their pass renewed – Denysse’s story is far from the only one.
“Clearly the renewals process has been flawed, from failing to properly inform people about the need for renewal, to failing to process passes adequately, and failing to be on hand to give residents correct and up to date information about what is happening with their pass.
“Thankfully there has been some level of response from London Councils, and the old passes are now valid past the 31st March. But London Councils must now sit up and take responsibility for this mess – by speeding up renewal of the outstanding passes, and taking steps to ensure that lessons are learnt for next time!”
Having found out that some older local residents are unaware that they need to renew their Freedom Pass by the end of March, Lynne Featherstone MP is now stepping in and sending out to local residents the necessary information.
The poor information campaign by Haringey Council, who are the local Freedom Pass providers, was brought to the Liberal Democrat MP’s attention by local resident Betty Cairns. Mrs Cairns had spent three hours trying to find out how to renew the pass after spotting a small ad in the local paper about the need for renewal.
The Hornsey and Wood Green MP has now written to local residents to let them know how to renew their passes.
Residents who want to find out more about how to renew the pass can go to: http://www.haringey.gov.uk/older_persons_freedom_pass.
Residents who want to get an application form can either pick one up from their local post office, download it from http://www.haringey.gov.uk/older_persons_freedom_pass.pdf, or call Lynne Featherstone’s office for a copy on 020 8340 5459.
Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey & Wood Green, comments:
“It’s appalling that there’s been such a poor effort to let residents know that they need to renew their passes. For those who might not read the local paper regularly, or use the internet, there is very little information out there about the need for renewal, not least since they closed down so many sub-post offices.
“This risks leaving some of our least mobile residents stranded on 1st April – and that is not acceptable.
“Haringey Council should have written to all current Freedom Pass holders to let them know what steps they need to take to avoid being left without a pass. But as that hasn’t been done, I felt the need to step in.”
Following the recent secret announcement that the Labour Government is proposing to cut funding for the popular freedom pass, Lynne Featherstone MP has now written to the Transport Minister to demand a re-think. Local Liberal Democrats are also encouraging residents to sign an online petition, demanding the proposal be halted.
Labour plan to take £1.8 million from the concession Haringey Council receives to finance the freedom pass for the elderly and disabled, and give it to other parts of England to plug the gaps in the cost of the scheme that they have rolled out nationally.
Outside London, most concessionary fare schemes are fully funded by Government grant, but in Haringey the scheme is only 66% funded by the concession.
Residents who want to sign the petition should go to http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/freedompass
Lynne Featherstone MP comments:
“Other parts of the country already get 100% of the costs of the free travel scheme covered. Here local residents pay a third. The Labour Government cuts would reduce that support to 50%. It is a sly and unfair move.
“This is not acceptable and I urge all local residents to sign the online petition calling for this ridiculous idea to be dropped.”
Robert Gorrie, leader of Haringey Liberal Democrats adds:
“Haringey Labour are already responsible for residents having to pay one of the highest Council Tax rates in London. Now the Labour government wants to make a change that could add almost £20 to those bills.
“I hope the government will think twice before burdening local residents with even higher charges when so many are suffering from the recession. This idea couldn’t have come at a worse time.”