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Tram concessions for elderly and disabled ‘unlikely to be axed’ says leader

The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council says tram concessions for the elderly and disabled are unlikely to be abolished once a new regional mayor is elected.

The council is currently consulting on whether the concessions should end, be cut back or stay the same.

People over the age of 65 or who have disabilities get free tram travel between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays and all day on weekends and bank holidays, at a cost of £900,000 per year.

There has been strong opposition from unions, pensioners’ groups and Broxtowe Borough Council to any change, who have described any cut as a “retrograde move”.

However, responsibility for tram funding is expected to pass to the new regional East Midlands Combined County Authority mayor after an election in May.

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Councillor Ben Bradley (Con), the county council leader and Conservative candidate for mayor, has responded to an open letter, saying concessions would almost certainly be safe under the new regime.

“Despite the persistent talk in some quarters of some kind of decision to stop concessions, that is simply not the case and I see no reason whatsoever why concessions would not continue, even if they are ultimately funded by a different organisation,” he said.

“As I understand, without bringing any politics in to it, all of the candidates for that role including myself have made clear publicly that they would continue to fund tram concessions.

“Without pre-empting future Council decisions or pre-empting decisions of an as-yet unelected Mayor, it would appear it is very realistic to suggest that the Mayor could take over that responsibility, that Nottinghamshire County Council would cease to fund it (and so has a duty to consult in advance of that) but where ultimately that service would not change or end.

“The longer term future would then be a matter for the East Midlands Mayor.”

Des Conway has published an open letter on behalf of the Save Free Tram Travel in Notts campaign.

“This policy is a retrograde move for the 154,000 pass holders, but our Save Free Tram Travel in Notts is confident that our public campaign can send this policy into the sidings,” he said.

“The tram is a hugely important part of the local travel network for citizens in the City and County, and offers the quickest and greenest access to Queen’s Medical Centre for medical appointments, which can be more frequent for older people and those with disabilities, and this will be severely affected if [the concessions are ended.]”

Around 50 members of the group have previously held protests at Nottinghamshire County Council’s County Hall headquarters.

Options on the table include ending the concessions, half-fare payments, free travel for only disabled concessionary pass holders and their companions, and no changes.

Broxtowe Borough Council have formally opposed any change, saying the savings would be “peanuts” compared to the county council’s annual budget.

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