Users of the ‘Taxicard’ service in Harrow handed in a petition at the borough’s civic centre on Monday – International Day of Disabled People – criticising the low number of journeys they are entitled to.
Harrow Council now offers just 40 free trips a year which, as the protesters pointed out, equates to less than one return journey every two weeks.
It is one of the lowest in London and, by contrast, neighbouring Hillingdon Council provides 104 annual journeys.
Adam Gabsi, vice-chairman of Harrow Association of Disabled People (HAD), organised the march to the Civic Centre alongside several other charities.
He said: “The council needs to speak to the very people that they are affecting to understand what impact their decisions are having on people’s physical and mental health.
“Disabled people want equality, justice and the freedom to live. The Taxicard scheme helps to facilitate this and should not have been cut.”
He added that blaming austerity for the cuts is an “excuse” and urged the council to come up with “innovative ideas” to help plug any funding gaps.
Nigel Long, chief executive of HAD, believes there is “room for manoeuvre” on the Taxicard issue and hopes to see the number of journeys at least doubled.
“We are sympathetic to the council’s financial situation, but disabled people should not have to bear the brunt of austerity,” he said.
“It seems as if they have taken the soft option and they have let disabled people in the borough down.”
Cllr Adam Swersky, who is responsible for finance at Harrow Council, agreed that it is important to find alternative sources but said it is impossible to ignore the impact of reduced government funding.
He said: “This is a symbol of how long austerity has been going on for. We’ve been facing cuts year-on-year and so, in that respect, things are only getting worse.
“These things affect the people who need our support the most, and that is why we are fighting for fairer funding in Harrow.”
He explained that the demand for adult social care does not meet the council’s budget and, as a result, it needs “as much help as possible” from outside bodies.
And he promised to work with HAD and other charities in the borough to see how they can move forward together.
TAXI LEAKS EXTRA BIT :
Funding for disabled cut, yet the Mayor found £1bn to fund cycle lanes which have crippled businesses all over London
DONT FORGET, JANUARY 2019 ....WHERE BUSES GO, TAXIS GO PROTESTS
Supported by ITA, LCDC, RMT, DDD and MM
Dates and venues will be posted in the New Year.