Council To Change Age For Receiving Free Boat Travel

Changes to the Council’s Concessionary Boat Fare scheme could mean some people losing their eligibility.

The programme, which provides off-islanders with a book of 52 single-fare boat vouchers each year has previously been available to residents once they hit their 60th birthday, in line with the National Bus Pass scheme. Some disabled people also benefit.

But the Government has now changed the rules so that people can only take their bus pass at the state pension age, currently 61 for women and 65 for men. That will eventually rise to 67 for everyone.

Councillors at yesterday’s Community Services meeting were asked to approve changes to the boat fare scheme to make it the same as for bus passes.

According to project co-ordinator, Helen Pearce, this would make five people who would normally have been able to claim this coming year ineligible.

Cllr Chris Savill said the current phasing of the pension age changes made it very difficult to manage although Helen said that, due to the low numbers involved here in Scilly, it’s not as onerous as it could be.

Councillors agreed to make the changes, effective from the 1st April 2013. They also stated that no one currently receiving the benefit should be affected by the change.

The Council has agreed to partner with Cornwall for issuing bus passes on the islands and new-style cards will start to be issued this month. Although there are no services here where the passes can be used, they are eligible for off-peak travel elsewhere in England.

The Council has also extended the contract with Age-UK to run the dial-a-ride Buzza Bus service on St Mary’s. The cost of running the service will actually fall by 10% over the next two years.

The Buzza Bus is currently off the road, awaiting a mechanical part being replaced. Director of Adult and Children’s Services, Penny Penn-Howard, said they would be looking into why the supplier is failing to keep parts stocked on the islands as promised in the original contract.