Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Diminishing Value of the TaxiCard in Lambeth

The TaxiCard scheme has always operated on an ad hoc basis; the criteria for entry differed from borough to borough; some boroughs gave people the choice of TaxiCard or Freedom Pass; indeed, as I recall at least one borough wouldn’t award the card to Blue Badge holders. The number of journeys varied from borough to borough as did the disabled persons contribution; and, while a lot of boroughs allowed stagecoaching some didn’t, or at least resisted it for years.

After taking a look through the London Boroughs site (see link below) at what the different boroughs are doing I notice that most are increasing the passenger contribution by £1 to £2.50. Now, while this in of itself doesn’t appear a massive rise; so much so the London Council site tries to play down the rise as being the first in 15 years.

But, the site while playing up this detail overlooks the fact that the subsidy has never kept pace with either inflation or the cost of living; thus, the TaxiCard user has seen a real term rise in the cost of their journeys as taxi fares have gone up over the years.

When I first started using TaxiCard I could get from home to Kings Cross Station, around 4.5 miles on one journey. Today, I can barely travel 3 miles, more like 2.5, before having to swipe my card again or suffer the excess fare. With the £2 per journey cut in subsidy it is barely worth holding a card.

That’s the down side from a user’s point of view. These changes in TaxiCard subsidy and the closing down of stagecoaching are also going to impact on the provider, the London cabbie.

The past couple of years have, in my opinion, seen quite an improvement in the reliability of TaxiCard. Where I live, in Lambeth, 2.5 miles from parliament or 3 from Covent Garden, is fairly central; yet, back in 2008 I still experienced problems getting a ComCab from my home – due to their unavailability.

A combination of the recession (you can trust a shortage of work in the centre of town to force a cabbie to widen his horizons in the quest of earning a pound note) and operational changes has improved the system no end – for instance on Saturday evening last, despite a heavy snowfall in Inner and Central London, my taxi turned up in good time and ferried me over to a party in Aldersgate Street, in the City.

The reductions in subsidy, but more especially the scrapping, in most boroughs, of the practice of stagecoaching will, I feel, deter a lot of cab drivers from the system. At the moment when I get into a cab I’ve ordered by phone I tend not to take too much notice of the run in charge on the meter – unless it’s an excessive amount. Because I tend to make journeys that involve a swipe, the run in charge becomes immaterial – that is, my journey is over 3 miles therefore whether the meter reads £3.40 or £4.50 my trip will necessitate two TaxiCard journeys.

Talking to cabbies, as I do, there is a sense that they can earn out of the double swipe trip as most of the second fare doesn’t usually reach the subsidy limit.

Changes to Lambeth's TaxiCard Scheme

TaxiCard Information in Lambeth

LB Lambeth Accessible Transport Unit
Adults and Community Services
Ground Floor, Hopton House
243a Streatham High Road
London, SW16 6EY

020 7926 0746
Fax: 020 7926 5143

Taxicard details to 3 January 2011
Trips: 12 a month (rollover)

£10.30/£11.30/£12.80 maximum subsidies per trip

Maximum run in: £3.40

Minimum Fare: £1.50

Taxicard details from 4 January 2011
Trips: 12 a month (rollover). However, please note that from 1 April 2011, this will change to 104 trips a year.

£8.30/£9.30/£10.80 maximum subsidies per trip

Maximum run in: £3.40

Minimum fare: £2.50

No double swiping

If you would like advice about using London’s transport, you may like to contact Transport for All’s Advocacy and Advice Line on 020 7737 2339. Transport for All is an organisation of disabled and older people. It provides advice, information and advocacy about travelling in London, and campaigns for a fully accessible, reliable and affordable transport network for disabled and older Londoners.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Tory Propaganda Finds Success

" I presume the finanical chaos left by the former government precludes the current government and councils/local authorities being in a position to relax the imposed charges." Qoth some colonel out in the shires.

The financial chaos we find ourselves in today is that created by high flying gung-ho bankers and their cohorts in the financial markets. The conditions they operated in were laid down by an over-permissive neo-liberal economic system which has blighted poorer people in this country, and abroad for well over a quarter of a century.

Blaming the former government for the deficit is simply swallowing the right-wing propaganda spread by a Tory owned press and acquiescent BBC and visual media. If the UK crisis was created by Labour, how do you then account for Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Russia and Germany etc...?

Even Brown couldn’t manage that! No, all those countries fell foul of recession and varying degrees of collapse of their financial institutions due to their adherence and over-dependence on the false economy of neo-liberalism.

There are other ways in which this Tory junta could alleviate and deal with the deficit. Incidentally, today’s deficit is a mere 30% of that which the UK had to contend with back in 1945. At that time a Labour government introduced a welfare state – one fit for the heroes returning from war and the heroes who had suffered great deprivation at home – and built 1,000,000 new homes.

Unfortunately, this mob we’ve in now will steal our public services from under our noses, selling them off to their friends in the private sector; this will be the biggest giveaway since Thatcher’s ‘selling off’ of the family silver in the 80s and 90s.

So readers, I beg of you not to be sucked into the great lie that says the only way to pay off the Tory bankers’ deficit is by punishing people who carry out vital public services and taking life enhancing services away from us users. There are a number of ways the Tories could reduce the deficit:

• Introduce a progressive taxation system.
• Go after those who cheat and don’t pay their share – the £6 billion in tax owed by Vodaphone, and then with a stroke of a pen expunged, could have meant councils needn’t make cuts this year. The Vodaphone non-payment is but one amongst scores and hundreds amounting to many scores of billions each year.
• A Robin Hood Tax – a tiny tax of about 0.05% on transactions like stocks, bonds, foreign currency and derivatives. Could raise £250 billion a year globally, or £20 billion in the UK alone. Well-tested, cheap to implement and hard to avoid.

But, why would this Tory regime even bother to consider anything that breaks with their political ideology. An ideology that would rather endure a few years of recession, thus breaking trade union influence, selling off whatever else is left in the public sector, eroding terms and conditions of the majority of workers; thus, ending up with a workforce fit for purpose; one which is badly paid, overworked, poorly valued, but compliant.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

More to accessibility than ramps and designated areas

London buses may have wheelchair spaces allocated; they may have ramps to assist wheelchair users off and on. Sadly, what London buses do not have are very tolerant or understanding passengers.

You can put in place all the infrastructural access elements in the world. However, if certain elements within society then choose to ignore the infrastructural enhancements, then the thing becomes useless to those it was intended to benefit.

If other public transport users refuse to accommodate wheelchair users and other disabled travellers; if they refuse to move out of designated areas or even give us room to get on a vehicle, then access aids are pointless. On trains, if people block us in with luggage; or if they pile luggage in doorways, thus obstructing our freedom of movement; then, they are effectively pushing us off trains; they’re contributing to our sense of isolation.


This is acceptable because one can understand from it that we are disabled by society.

Some people prefer this because it emphasis’s that, first and foremost, we are human beings and should be treated as such.

This is used to refer to a condition, rather than the above which are about the social context.

A phrase that can be used for any disabled person.

A phrase that can be used for any disabled person who uses a voluntary or statutory service, rather than ‘client’.

These are accurate descriptions, not value judgments.

A more factual term.

A small proportion of wheelchair-users cannot transfer onto other seating.

This is an accurate description, not a value judgment.

These are accurate descriptions, not value judgments.

This is a more factual description.

This is the phrase now used instead of ‘Spastic’.

This is preferred to ‘Hunchback’.

People with a high degree of deafness usually like to be called deaf. They feel there is no stigma attached to it and they are proud to be who they are.

Some people, particularly those who are not completely deaf, prefer this phrase.

This is acceptable, particularly to older people with hearing loss.

These are acceptable terms. Don’t forget that many blind people, though registered blind, do have some limited sight.

This is the proper description for a toilet specifically built / adapted for use by disabled people.

Keith Faulkner RIP

Keith Faulkner – TUC Conference Organiser

First met Keith at the Congress House many years ago; Keith was a big guy, 6’ 3”, or there abouts; rangy with long greyish hair, often worn in a ponytail, Keith could be seen in and around the building, usually when events were occurring.

Keith was responsible for the TUC Conference set-up and a whole load of other events that were held at the TUC or by the TUC. Though a big guy, Keith went about his business in a quiet manner, always ready to give assistance or lend a hand if and where needed.

Before I began bringing my own seating to conferences set up by Keith, he’d spot me coming into the conference hall or arena and be at hand to show me where my ‘special’ chair was; if it needed to be changed or moved, he was the man who’d sort it out, no fuss or bother.

Many is the time that I’ve eyed up a ramp in readiness to assault the thing, only for Keith to say “Ok Seán, I’ve got you mate,” and the ramp was taken care of in a flash, saving my poor old arms and shoulders.

Some years ago, when new to the conference scene, I needed to speak to someone about access issues at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens. After a few phone calls I ended up speaking to the person who set up the TUC conference, Keith, and we spent almost an hour discussing the different access issues thrown up by various venues across the country. Alas, on that occasion were unable to marry-up the perfect venue with the best accommodation; while one conference venue was great, the town was short of decent and plentiful reasonably priced accommodation.

On that occasion we agreed to keep in touch with one and other; and, if I had any concerns with venues booked by the TUC I had only to give Keith a bell and we’d discuss things.

Keith was a gentle man always willing to lend a hand and smile; and, he’ll be sorely missed by all those who knew him, both professionally and personally.

Keith Faulkner RIP

By Seán McGovern


Jody McIntyre posed the following questions on his excellent Blog ‘Life on Wheels'.

“How can we claim to be living in a developed country, a “free democracy”, when such a large section of society are denied the right to use our public transport. Can you imagine this being accepted for any other group of people… no women on buses? No black people on trains?
Then WHY is it OK for disabled people?"

My response:

Because, the voiceless are not heard.

But, things are changing; and, as the actions and words of activists such as Jody McIntyre are beamed across the world via the Internet, TV and press so the level of our voice begins to rise above the hubbub of our oppressors.

Back in 1995 we got the DDA; and with it came promises of accessible transport sometime in the future – full compliance of buses and trains by 2019 and 2020 respectively. Most disabled people with a finger anywhere near the pulse of what’s-going-on-out-there-in-our-name knows that all buses and trains will not be compliant by those dates – after all they’ve only had a generation to prepare for this – and, they’ll be lodging requests for concessions from compliance to whichever compliant government is in place.

Thousands of disabled people, who were given a soupcon of hope in 1995, have since tootled off to pastures new; and, sadly thousands more will pass on through without benefitting from a fully accessible transport system by the time ‘full compliance’ is in place.

However, by full compliance read a fully compliant public transport system minus a few concessions – the London Underground system for example. Anyway, why all the fuss? Didn’t Simon Hoggart clear this issue up a few years ago when he wondered why the wheelchair users were complaining about the tube system, since he rarely saw a wheelie using the tube!

You couldn’t make it up; could you? Out of the mouths of babes and the sophisticated literati...


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

How to withhold 'personal contributions' elements of DPs?

On Ouch today someone complained about an amount they'd been asked to contribute towards their personal care package. The LA in question was imposing a levy from the persons DLA towards their DPs. Another Oucher suggested withholding payment altogether; citing the councils very often capitulated to this form of passive resistence.

However, if you’re in receipt of Direct Payments refusal to pay your ‘share’ of the care costs presents problems. My package comes from the council and ILF. Both these parties have assessed my income and as a result I make a contribution to both pots of money.

The point is that I have to physically pay that money into my DP’s account; as my DP’s are paid to me minus the amount I’m expected to pay. Therefore, if I refuse to pay I’m the one penalised as I’ll not receive care to the value of my contribution.

It’s quite ingenious really; you’re stuffed if you do and stuffed if you don’t. Coughing-up the ackers leaves you in Penury Place, but at least you’re clean and dressed; by reneging you’re in Easy Street, but you smell a bit and are naked from the waist down.

Rebelling against the system is fine when you hold some half-decent cards. However, when the establishment is the banker and dealer holding all the cards; well, it’s very difficult to rebel.

Should I decide to cease my personal contributions tomorrow it would only be a matter of time before my LA sent in the social workers to reassess my care needs. By withholding my contribution I’d be denying myself around 7-hours care per week; and, I’m quite sure they’d reassess me as not needing these hours as I’m managing without them.

In the days before DPs many disabled people did refuse to pay for personal care. This care was directly provided by the council (or through a third party in the form of an agency); and, the client was invoiced by the provider, thus giving the client the opportunity to withhold payment.

Under those circumstances quite a few councils ‘caved-in’ under pressure from disabled who refused to pay. Of course, these were one-offs. While the LA might have buckled under pressure from one tenacious client they still imposed charges on the rest – the majority.

It is very sad that we can’t take some form of class action with such issues. Collectively we’d stand a great chance of having some of these financially punitive measures lifted. As individuals all we can do is fight our corner; sometimes win; and, when we win sign gagging orders in order to protect our oppressors.

Hat's Off to Those Who 'Do'!

He is an Anarchist who openly admits to confrontation wherever he goes.
He should be treated the same as the other rioters, prosecuted jailed & the key thrown away.
I'm not saying i don't agree with Demonstrations but they nust be peaceful, unfortunately people travelled from all over the World to take part in this rioting.
I welcome the use of water cannon as the latest idea to stop the havoc caused by these lowlife.
It's you & me who are going to have to pay for all the damage & repairs.

So qoth yet another disaffected law-abiding citizen; doubtlessly fulminating at the temerity of those who get and ‘do’ whilst he sits in proud impotence pondering on the plight his own powerlessness.

The damage caused by students on demos is of nothing compared to the damage and mayhem being caused by this Tory government; ‘tis merely a drop in an ocean of troubles.

The student protests of the past few weeks are a just a prelude; if you like, the hors d’œuvre to the main courses, the first of which will be served up in January when VAT is increased to 20%; and, when fares on public transport rise disproportionately to inflation just after Christmas.

During March scores of thousands of local authority and public services workers will lose their jobs. Similarly, thousands upon thousands of us disabled people will be stripped of our care packages as LA’s begin to dole out care on a statutory basis – that is those of us assessed to have critical care needs.

Between the vicious tactics of the police and the cavalier abandonment of the welfare state by a government hell-bent on hoovering-up the last vestiges of anything publically owned, they’ll manage to politicise hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens – and, it won’t be the polite politics of parliamentary prudence they’ll learn!

As for Message 5, how exactly does one demonstrate peacefully when those charged with policing the event turn out to be the aggressors? Are you advocating the right for police to imprison people illegally as the tactic of kettling does? Collective punishments are illegal in this country; are the police in your opinion above the law? Do you accept police brutality as has been used during these student demos and more regrettably against Ian Tomlinson in April 2009?

We’re in for a protracted period of civil unrest. Sadly, it’s the only language this gang in government understand.

We can afford to look after disabled and elderly people

There is not enough money to meet the legitimate care needs of severly disabled people, nor to pay for a human rights standard for people in geriatric hospitals and care home.” Complains another dupe.

Yes there is enough money to meet the needs of disabled and elderly people. The problem is, you and others like you, have been duped into believing that our economy can only be saved by the dismantling of our welfare state. Ten-out-of-ten for this Tory junta’s ability to disseminate the great lie that disabled people and public sector workers are somehow responsible for the current deficit.

It was the bankers, not roads sweepers or disability care assistants that caused our present plight; and, it should be there that the government begins its squeeze. But of course such a proposal is preposterous; why would a Tory government turn on its own kind; it’d be akin to the LibDems voting for a massive hike in tuition fees - tantamount to political suicide (tee hee hee; wave goodbye to the LibDems as they pass us by in the tumbrel of political expediency heading [no pun intended] towards the guillotine of political oblivion).

Suppress Hoi Poloi

Water canon is too slow, but a plentiful supply of cheap hosepipes could be connected to taps and placed at the ready near upper windows. It would not take many police to spray the heads and feet of an approaching mob, who could avoid getting wet by going away peacefully.” The words of a reactionary who believes the state has the right to suppress all forms of protest.

Yes, why waste water on this rabble when bullets would be more effective. Kettle hoi poloi into the lumpen mass they profess to be and frog-march, or goose-step, whichever fascistic mode suits, them into the football stadia that proliferate our fair country.

Have a chat to Margaret Thatcher, I’m sure she and the butcher Pinochet enjoyed many a fireside chat about the good old days about Chile in the 1970s; when the Santiago football grounds resounded to the screams of tortured prisoners; while the political disappeared vanished from all but the hearts and memories of their families and loved ones. Maggie’ll pass on some tips on dealing with political unrest to her heirs.

Ian Tomlinson tried to walk away peacefully in April last year, as I recall; didn’t stop a policeman attacking him with quite serious results. Jean Charles de Menzes I’m informed was so busy acting peacefully it needed seven bullets just to make sure.

How many policemen does it take to kill an innocent man? None...As there are no innocent men!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Come on in WUG - no, not you Davison!

Whether or not it’s true that Bayliss is now wearing a ginger wig and taking lessons in Scouse we shouldn’t be too hard on all those misguided souls who split with the UL and followed Steve Davison into that pathetic lash-up the Workers Uniting Group – WUG.

WUG, such an onomatopoeic word; indeed, a group thrown-up, spewed forth, by that unholy triumvirate of Simpson, Bayliss and Davison. WUG would appear now to be disbanded and looking for a new home. Let’s by all means talk to the rank-and-filers. But, under no circumstances should we have any dealings with the rat Davison. Just as the old T&G BL would have no truck with Aitkin; so, the new UL shouldn’t touch, the damaged goods, Davison with a barge pole.

Yes, Lennie is the unity candidate; the extent of his vote and collapse of the Bayliss vote proves this. However, the UL cannot allow its ranks to be sullied with the likes of Davison who throughout the whole building of Unite has acted as Simpson’s hatchet man promoting and supporting every reactionary and backward action to slow down the progress of our great union.

It was a sorry day for Unite when the Left broke discipline and allowed Davison to take the position of Vice Chair. The past is the past; so, let’s remember the mistakes of yesterday and move on. However, in remembering we must ensure that Davison, if returned to the Executive, isn’t in a position to make any demands. This means we must isolate him and his kind from positions of power. Never again should the forces of reaction and self-interest be given any platform within the highest lay offices of Unite the Union.