Bus pass cuts raise fears for blind in Norwich

Government cuts could damage the quality of life of Norwich's blind community, according to a local support group.

The Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind (NNAB) has expressed concern at a decision by Norfolk County Council to reduce the hours of free bus travel for blind people of working age.

The council's budget-cutting decision to change the time at which all bus passes will be recognised from 8.30am to 9.30am is due to come into action on April 1, when responsibility for administering concessionary passes in Norfolk transfers from the seven district councils to County Hall.

The decision has angered equipment and information advisor for the NNAB, Chris Maule-Oatway.

He fears it will mean blind people of working age trying to get to work for 9am, like himself, will face a great increase in cost.

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He said: 'While we can appreciate the county council faces some difficult decisions and has seen its government grant for bus passes cut by �2.2m, we do feel that blind people should be made a special case.

'Many blind people have no alternative but to use the bus to get to work on time, and if their bus passes are not valid until 9.30am it will increase their costs significantly in a county like Norfolk.

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'We feel there should be a distinction between helping blind people seek work and hold down a job and passes which are simply issued to all over 60s who will mainly be using them for leisure activities.

'There are a lot of blind people on limited incomes in the county who won't even be able to get to classes and events held here at the NNAB in Norwich on time, including some of our volunteers.'

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council admitted the situation was far from ideal, but added that the county council feel they have been handed a raw deal from the government which has led to this.

He said: 'In terms of county transport schemes Norfolk County Council is at risk of potentially having a �4.5m shortfall in funding from the government compared to the expected costs of the scheme.

'We can only run the scheme with the funding that we are given.'

Are government cuts going to affect your life? Contact reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or by email to david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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