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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Freedom Pass

I have had some queries about the Freedom Pass, which has been subjected to a lot of scaremongering by the Conservatives. Navin Shah, our London Assembly member, has sent me some information, which I paraphrase.

The Freedom Pass is funded by London Boroughs in conjunction with TfL. The Mayor of London was given the power to overide the objections of the Boroughs in the case of a dispute. The issue of how much money the Freedom Pass should cost became a political football when Ken Livingstone was Mayor, and the Conservative Boroughs resented him using his powers to make them support the Freedom Pass. According to Navin, Conservative Council Leader Cllr Daniel Moylan of Kensington & Chelsea accused Ken Livingstone of using the Freedom Pass as a "stealth tax."

The Boroughs subsequently agreed changes to the funding arrangements with the new Mayor. As I blogged earlier, this will greatly disadvantage Brent. However, TfL's contribution will be capped until 2015. This means that any rise in cost, such as the extension of a 24 hour Freedom Pass, will have to be borne by the Boroughs.

The one significant change that Boris has made to his powers is to pass his reserve power to overide the Boroughs to an independent arbiters. Of course, he cannot change the Parliamentary Act so I guess he is pledging a kind of self-denying ordinance to follow what the arbiter says.

The problem with all this is that it seems to create greater scope for disputes. Boris can extend the Freedom Pass and expect the Boroughs to pick up the tab. Apart from the changes to the formula for paying for it, which greatly disadvantages Brent, there is likely to be a long term increase in the cost as the population ages. Hence, a major political mess is quietly being built up.

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