It was announced on Monday that unemployed people are going to be given free bus travel to enable them to look for jobs or finance journeys for interviews. This is an obvious move which has been part of my "measures to improved the mobility of labour" lessons for about 50 years. I wonder why it took so long.
Many readers will have lost touch, through possession of a car or an elderly persons' bus pass, of how much bus fares are these days. I conduct a few tutorials at the Business School of a local university once a week. Unfortunately these tutorials start at 9am so I have to catch the bus before the 9.30 am "watershed." The fare to the city centre , about five miles away, is £2.80, and the fare to the outskirts where the Business School is situated, about a 7 minute journey, is an astonishing £2. That total of £4.80 would be a large slice of the Job Seekers' Allowance of £71 (only £56.25 if you're under 25).
So thank goodness that, at last, there is something which is genuinely helpful for unemployed people, though watch out of articles in the Sun and Daily Mail about job seekers joy riding on the buses to no purpose (just as many of we pensioners do.)
However, all is not sense. It has emerged that one of the major casualties in the cuts of grants from central to local government is the subsidies to buses. So once again the government's austerity measures impinge on the poorest in our society, those who have to rely on public transport to get them about (often to get to work in the very early hours, for example the cleaners who make the working environment ready for the more highly paid who will arrive later.)
At the same time the government has given in to the motoring lobby and cancelled the scheduled 3p rise in fuel duty. Surely our long-term aim should be to price gas guzzling motorists off the roads and promote the alternative of public transport. There is much talk about not burdening future generations with debt. We don't seem nearly so concerned about bequeathing them them a clapped out infrastructure and poisoned planet.