But pensioners claim partial victory
On Friday 14th February over 100 pensioners and other anti-cuts protesters packed the CENTRO board meeting which was meeting to decide their 2014-2015 budget.
The chair claimed that CENTRO had no choice but to implement the budget reduction demanded by the seven metropolitan councils led by Birmingham. This was sharply refuted by interruptions from the floor which pointed out that until April 2014 the board has the right to set whatever budget it chooses and demand a corresponding precept from the councils.
It emerged that CENTRO bosses have abandoned plans to make pensioners pay on trams and trains, and increase child fares to two-thirds adult. They admitted the scale of public and particularly organised pensioner opposition was the reason.
However they are going ahead with a cut to the budget for Ring and Ride which will mean an increase in fares from 60p to £1.00. This is spite of a 55000 signature petition assembled mainly by pensioners, and in defiance of the obvious equality issues involved in making the only cut in services at mostly disabled people’s expense. The chair of the Ring and Ride walked out of the board meeting in protest. The chair said that these issues would be considered by a working group headed by Darren Cooper the Sandwell council leader.
The Labour majority claimed the rest of the budget cut would be met by cutting back room staff but this seems improbable to achieve. In the vote the Tory and Liberal Democrat councillors voted against the budget, hypocritically considering that the cuts are caused by coalition reductions in local government spending. However the budget was easily carried by the large Labour majority.
While jubilant at the partial retreat, pensioners promised to carry on the fight for Ring and Ride especially as further cuts next year were scheduled.