Sunday, 5 April 2009

My Council .... tells Porkies

"My Council" (that's that lot at the Council House) have been really generous in paying for free bus travel for our senior citizens. At least that's what you would might have thought if you saw this poster displayed prominently in our streets a couple of months ago.

But doesn't the Government pay for the bulk of the cost of the bus passes? In which case wasn't it a bit disingenuous of "Our city" to refer to "Our free bus pass" when the funding comes via central government? This was put out under Labour so perhaps they thought that the Labour controlled City Council could legitimately claim credit for the actions of the Labour government.

The poster seems to have disappeared from circulation now that the Lib-Dems are in charge so perhaps somebody thought that the spurious justification no longer applied. I wonder if the Advertising Standards Authority would be interested in adjudicating on whether the Council was guilty of transgressing the CAP code (honesty) - " Marketeers should not exploit the credulity, lack of knowledge or inexperience of consumers."

As an aside, on March 10th I asked the Council's Public Transport Team what contribution the Council made towards the overall cost of free bus passes. A simple enough question with a simple answer, one might think. But my request was referred to an accountant, who failed to supply any information (or even to reply despite reminders). It seems that Councillor Jon Rogers' new policy of openness and honesty has not permeated down to the Public Transport Team, who appear still to be living in the "we know best - mind your own business" era of NuLabour.


Anonymous said...

Should we assume then that the council doesn't know how much it spends on bus passes?

What's the point of employing accountants that (a) don't immediately know or (b) can't work it out?

Chris Hutt said...

I'm amazed that the Public Transport Team don't know! All I wanted to know was roughly what percentage came from the council - 5% or whatever. You'd think they'd have some idea of whose money they were spending.

Anonymous said...

It's David Bishop's department isn't it?

Fancy that. No one has even the vaguest idea about their own budget, income, expenditure etc.

I wonder why?

And how do they work and how are they managed without clear accounts and budgets? They're the most basic and important of management and accountability tools aren't they?

Anonymous said...

but didn't the council organise the transfer to the new passes, deal with the admin, publicise it etc? Aren't you just trying to attack Labour/the council for the sake of it. At the same time, ignoring the massive change in mobility for many elderly and disabled people funded by Labour. Shame on you.

Chris Hutt said...

Anon, I tried to find out what, if anything, the Council contributed to this, but they will not disclose anything.

Unless their contribution was as substantial as the Government's it's surely misleading for them to claim the credit, especially when every other local authority in the country has provided much the same service largely funded by the government.

As for the justification for the free bus pass scheme as a whole, I said nothing about that. But since you raise it, I think the government should trust those supposedly receiving the benefit of the funding to decide for themselves how they would like to spend it. Some might have other priorites than sitting on buses all day.

Anonymous said...

Well put a complaint in to the ASA, does not take much to fill out the form online and as you are a member of the public it is anonymous!

Anonymous said...

If you are elderly, move to Wales. Seriously. My mum lives there and the difference is like night and day - free everything and carers who actually do.
I love Bristol but all the disregard and deceit for the public by the political classes is galling. Keep up the good work.


Anonymous said...

I wrote to Stephen Williams asking what he thought of the fact that rich over-60s can travel for free on buses, but poor people under 60 cannot. I didn't get very far.

Bristol Dave said...

I'd put money on Anonymous @ 05 April 2009 12:28 being a member of the Labour administration.

Current odds are 3-1 Mark Bradshaw.

Anonymous said...

Yes. The seizing of the high moral ground: "shame on you", while overlooking the fact a department doesn't know what it's doing with £20m is very Labour isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Bristol Dave
doubt it's bradshaw - probably too busy knocking on doors til June. why would he want to waste time commenting on Chris Hutt's lib dem supporters website? Nat

Chris Hutt said...

"why would he want to waste time commenting on Chris Hutt's lib dem supporters website?"

The same reason as you Nat?

Pete Goodwin said...

A few of the more adventurous councils (that doesn't of course include you-know-who) are now taking advantage of the 'smart card' features of the bus pass so they can get an accurate measure of what journeys are being made, and pay the operators accordingly.

The present system's wide open to exploitation. The ticket doesn't record a destination, so that can't be checked. And there's nothing to stop tickets being issued to non-passengers for imaginary journeys, for which the companies receive around a pound each. Why should anyone believe the bus companies when they say they've provided n passenger journeys at a 'normal' fare of £x ?

The other weakness of this system is that it gives the card holder no incentive to keep costs down. While there was a nominal fare (half fare until this scheme came in) you could still plan journeys with the minimum outlay. Now..... why bother, it's all free!

Still, your theme is that the council is claiming credit for what the government is providing. It's only true up to a point. The Avon Councils do, and always have granted extra concessions, in that a bus pass in one council was always valid for journeys in another, even at 9am (the national scheme provides for journeys after 9.30). Also, the national payment is probably rather lower than the actual cost to the council.

When you eventually get your answer from BCC, I guess that's what it will say.

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!