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“I can’t get out on my own, I feel like I’m locked in"

Cuts to public transport leave West Berkshire residents feeling isolated

Chris Ord

Reporter:

Chris Ord

“I can’t get out on my own, I feel like I’m locked in"

FIVE months on from the savage cuts to public services imposed by West Berkshire Council, the consequences on those affected are starting to emerge.

Kevin Hallcup lost his free bus pass following the brutal cuts to the district’s public transport system and says his confidence and precious independence have now been taken away.

The 55-year-old, who has learning difficulties and dyslexia, had been able to travel into Newbury or Reading, from his Calcot home.

However, following the council’s decision to withdraw free bus passes for those with mental health issues, Mr Hallcup says he has spiralled into depression, feeling trapped in his bungalow.

With just one friend to rely on to take him out, Mr Hallcup says he does not have anywhere to turn.

Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, he said: “They [West Berkshire Council] just don’t seem to care. I don’t want to have to stay in my bungalow 24/7.

“I can’t get out on my own, I feel like I’m locked in.

“I used look forward to getting on the bus and going into Newbury or Reading. I knew where I was going.

“I’ve got a rail pass which is paid for me, but my friend, Derek, is worried that I’ll go somewhere and not know where I am.

“I don’t want to burden Derek too much because he’s got his own life.

“It’s taken all my confidence away.

Mr Hallcup’s friend and helper, Derek Norton, has accompanied him to consultations with West Berkshire Council and his doctor to see if he qualifies for a free pass on other grounds, without success.

“At one point they said it looked good for him, but then they just said he doesn’t qualify,” said Mr Norton, 66.

“The reason they say he can’t have a pass is because he apparently should be able to drive.

“He can’t tell left from right; he’d never be able to pass a driving test.

“He’s in such despair and just despondent. He’s been referred to social services by his doctor because he’s feeling so low.”

Earlier this year, the council came under fire from action groups who claimed the local authority was discriminating against people with mental health issues by removing their entitlement to a free bus pass.

In total, the local authority cut £780,000 from the public transport budget, which also saw a number of bus services reduced or stopped altogether.

During the public consultation on the swingeing cuts in March, West Berkshire Council admitted the decision could lead to “reduced life opportunities and a reduced quality of life” for those affected.

However, the council defended its decision, saying it was “satisfied that it has complied fully with its legal obligations under the Equalities Act 2010 in reaching the decision that it did”.

West Berkshire Council spokesman Martin Dunscombe added: “Our transport team will do what they can to help those who apply for our concessionary fares scheme.

“Where people no longer qualify under mental health grounds, the team will look at whether they might qualify on other grounds, such as the medication preventing them from obtaining a driving licence.

“The changes introduced earlier this year only affected discretionary elements of the scheme and we continue to implement the National Concessionary Travel Scheme in accordance with our statutory obligations.”

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Article comments

  • DonCossack

    06/09/2016 - 12:12

    What are we going to do about it?

    Reply

  • Fruitboy

    05/09/2016 - 13:01

    West Berkshire Council currently has almost 200 fleet lease cars, many of which are convertibles and high performance, under its ownership. It currently spends about £350,000 a year on this scheme. It's purpose? A benefit in kind to its staff!! No other local authority in Berkshire runs scheme anywhere like this scale. WBC actions speak louder than anything else when you consider headlines like this against what the council manages to find the money for. This makes me very very upset!

    Reply

  • skott

    05/09/2016 - 08:08

    how can the council justify this when their boss is on 150 thousand a year and at least ten others on 100 thousand,its a shamefull disgrace that this is happening.cut their wages is the solution.none of these people need to be on this outrageous wage and they surely dont deserve this.i would do the job for 30 thousand a year and would do it so much better than them.these bosses are so out of touch that they are not even on the same playing field as the rest of society.They think they are better than us but we can show them they are not better by voting these individuals out.bring back free bus passes for the vunerable.

    Reply

    • Fruitboy

      05/09/2016 - 13:01

      Spot on and well said! There a few like minded Newbury folk in our FB group West Berkshire Council Watch with more stories like this...and worse :-(

      Reply

  • montgomery

    04/09/2016 - 15:03

    Labour keep people in poverty. Its a myth that labour help the disadvantaged in society.

    Reply

    • Sausages

      04/09/2016 - 17:05

      Tory government, Tory Council! What the hell has this decision got to do with Labour?

      Reply

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