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Friday, 9 March 2012

Bus Passes Again

It's really very odd, this idea that the over 60s have, that governments should pay their bus fares. Wherever did they get it?

They got it from governments reckoning that it would be a vote-winner with the gullible. And it would stop them thinking about proper pension provision.

Most of my uncles worked from 14 to 65, then retired and died before they were 70. They were cheap to pension off. They paid National Insurance for a very long time and drew an Old Age Pension for a very little time.

Governments and those who vote them in do have this excuse: they never saw the vast increase in life expectancy coming. It came upon us very quickly. We should have been ramping up obligatory pension contributions decades ago. Now it's too late.

The least painful solution is to encourage people to work longer. This is slowly being done through the raising of the state pension age. But, perversely, our governments still encourage people to think of themselves as old before their time. The bus pass, the bogus "Winter Fuel Payment" ( a cash handout ), free prescriptions, all kick in at 60. Sixty, for goodness sake!

The only rationale is that sixty is the sex-discriminatory female retirement age. It won't be for much longer but the damage has been done by this extraordinary bit of sex discrimination.

Now we are in a position where it will be very hard for governments to claw back the "universal benefits" handed to the over sixties. The only way I can see that it might be done is to commit to adding the savings to the National pension pot. After all, a self-respecting person would prefer to pay their own bus fares out of a decent income. Governments only gave you the Bus Pass because they wanted to see you tug your forelock.

Added 25 July 2018:  See now the chapter "Bus Passes and Benefits" in my book The Best I Can Do (degree zero 2016), freely available from Amazon, Waterstones, and other booksellers


  1. There's another disadvantage to bus passes. They make people lazy. My relatives can not understand why I walk down the road when I could get on a bus for free. Then they wonder why they are so unfit.

  2. I take your point, but there's another issue to be considered against your argument of why are we prematurly geriatrifying the elderly which is why we are 'infantasising' our youth within the in-work benefits system and what implications that has.

    Single working people without children currently become eligible for working tax credits to supplement low wages when they are 25 and working 30 hours a week or more.

    Local Housing Allowance (housing benefit for private rentals)has recently been restricted so that the lower shared accommodation will now apply to under 35s and opposed to formerly under 25s.

    Now I don't see why on earth a bright 18 year old should be given less help if they want to leave home and move to an area of the country where there are more jobs than a 26 or 36 year old.

    The arbituary age profiles work all ways, note also that a 50 year old working 16 hours a week if they have been unemployed for six months can claim the tax credits, a 49 year old will still have to work for 30 plus hours a week.

  3. No, look, please consider where you are coming from before you put foreward your experience as being representative of all pensioners.

    You are in a relatively privileged position in that you have a post retirement occupation as well as your pension, but many pensioners do not have this and the bus pass and winter fuel allowance are important in maintaining quality of life.

    It's about messages as much as hard cash, the withdrawl of the free bus pass for instance would impact massively on the frailer elderly for whom getting out of the house is important in maintaining health.

    Or are we all 'islands', I don't think so.