Brent Council left with �1million Freedom Pass bill

Town hall claims Mayor of London failed to provide extra cash for scheme

Town hall bosses have been left with a �1million bill after Mayor of London Boris Johnson failed to increase the borough’s funding for Freedom Passes.

Brent Council needs the seven-figure sum to plug the gap caused by an increase in travel costs while funding for the concessionary scheme remaining the same.

This year the council spent almost �14m funding the scheme, but the sum is expected to rise to �15m in 2012-13 and an increase in applications is also anticipated.

A Freedom Pass is available for anyone over the age of 60 or residents with proven mobility issues.

It allows users to travel for free on buses and Tube trains throughout London.

According to Stonebridge councillor Zaffar Van Kalwala, there are around 43,000 people in the borough who have a Freedom Pass and the council will struggle to balance its books to make up the shortfall.

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He said: “The increase will be devastating for Brent.

“Many of our elderly residents are struggling to deal with rising living costs. These increases are totally unfair and the mayor should stop them now.”

Brent Council has proposed a string of cost-cutting measures, including the closure of half the borough’s libraries and several day-care centres, as it tries to make �100m worth of savings in four years.

Cllr Kalwala added: “Local services are already under pressure and this will only make things worse.”

Ron Collman of Brent Pensioners Forum also criticised the plans.

The 84-year-old said the Freedom Pass was “a useful method of getting around,” adding: “The prices should be frozen. I’m sure there are other ways the money could be made.”

A Transport for London (TfL) spokesman told the Times that the organisation was committed to the Freedom Pass, calling it a valuable concession.

She added: “TfL is currently discussing the Freedom Pass settlement with London Councils, who are legally responsible for funding it.”

However, London Councils said they hoped the mayor would reduce costs.

Catherine West, who chairs London Councils’ transport and environment committee, said: “We are still in negotiations with Transport for London about the Freedom Pass contract.

“We are calling on the mayor to minimise the level of the increased cost to the Freedom Pass.”