Death By A Thousand Cuts For OAP’s; Free TV, Air Ambulance, Rural Buses?

Hard to think that it was only last week that the world’s attention was focused on the last remaining proud men and women who had been the first on the beach on that fateful day 75 years ago on June 6th 1944. Quite rightly the thanks of world leaders were rightly given to the few who remain, and year by year there numbers will diminish until they are gone, and fade into history.

Fast forward one week and the BBC have announced that the free TV license fee handed out by George Osborne for the over 75’s, some years ago, is going to be scrapped and pensioners basically means tested. It is ironic that this decision has come so swiftly after the same generation, were so rightly applauded and honoured, and then low and behold, you get a good hard kick in the shins. The BBC has said that if they maintain the free license then they will not be able to sustain several renowned channels like BBC1, and the BBC News channel amongst other flagship services. What I genuinely struggle to understand is why we end up in this situation, it seems that white elephant projects that squander millions are happily allowed to go on with it without any redress. While decent initiatives like this are scrapped without recourse or conscience.

However, it seems that there are sacred cows that we as a nation take exception to, and this has clearly been identified as one of them. It is the same with things like the Air Ambulance which for reasons I never understand is purely funded by charitable donations from the public. Why is that certain issues are so sensitive and yet so bizarre in that they should be untouchable. But, that is life today in this divided and sadly unhappy and rudderless nation, that somehow has managed to plunge itself into this lunacy of division and calamity. You only need to see what the rest of the world think of us, Muppetry is the name of the game. A once respected and revered nation has managed to shoot itself in the foot, not once but repeatedly, may as well have used a Gatling gun with its hundred rounds a minute.

So, on the day when a report was published that gave a clear ten point plan as to what needs to be done to reverse the decline of rural bus services. And I have to say that this is the first time that I have seen such a report that I can recall for some years. The author is my friend Claire Walters, the charismatic and independent leader of Bus Users UK, and fellow UK Bus Awards judge, a woman I have admired for her independence and strength of character. She is a lady who does not mind who she offends, she speaks her mind in a world where few ever do these days.

The report offers a 10 point plan to seek to reverse the years of decline hastened by the perfect storm of external factors. Key headlines are a reform of the Traffic Commissioners, a modernisation of the role of DVSA, and for local authorities to take a more consumer -led approach to transport. And for local partnership working to be a requirement between local authorities and bus operators. It is certainly worth a read, and I have to say that I applaud Claire and her team, I know that I was born an optimist and glad that I was. But I genuinely hope that this report will be acted upon and measures put into place to start to reverse this really negative decline in the quality of life for those millions of people who live outside our Cities and Towns. They are every bit as equal as City dwellers and if anything deserve that little bit more help that Claire and her friends are trying to give them. Got my vote Claire!

Written by Austin Birks

June 14, 2019

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