Letters: Bus pass fee could be on the cards

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Bus passes certainly benefit more than just their users. So perhaps some people like me who benefit could perhaps contribute.

Without having kept records, I would guess that in a year I get £100 to £200, maybe more, in free travel, mostly for pure leisure, although the subsidy payments made by the government via local authorities to the bus companies will be somewhat less. I would certainly be prepared to pay £50, maybe £100, for an annual pass.

The annual cost to the government is £1bn, so if there are 10 million users of bus passes that comes to £100 each, although obviously some people will use them a lot more and others a lot less.

Regardless of costs, an extra benefit of the pass is that it obviates the need to have loose cash for paying casual fares, although the gradual advent of smart payment cards will perhaps also obviate that need.

H Trevor Jones

Guildford, Surrey

There is no doubt that free bus passes and fuel allowance to everyone over 60 is unsustainable, though most politicians are terrified of saying so.

We often hear people say "I've paid for them all my life". But there is a widespread misunderstanding about National Insurance: 60 years ago, Aneurin Bevan said, "The great secret about the National Insurance Fund is that there ain't no fund".

Instead of means-testing these benefits, raise the age from which they are paid to, say, 70 or 75 .

Alan Pavelin

Chislehurst, Kent

You highlight the reduction in funding for social care for older and disabled people in England (22 October), with local authorities spending 10 per cent less on social care than they were in 2009.

But there is good news. First, the numbers of older and disabled people who require state-funded residential care continues to fall. Factors include better help for people to remain in their own homes.

Second, many councils now work closely with the NHS services to offer short- term services to people who have had health problems to help them get back on their feet without the necessity for longer-term care services.

Many councils and their partners are responding creatively to these problems.

Professor John Bolton

Institute of Public Care, Oxford Brookes University, Coventry

Society's sins of yesteryear back to haunt

Amid the outcry aimed at Jimmy Savile, most commentators fail to mention that this rotten wurzel was just one in the field of festering tubers.

Some of us remember that in the 1970s there was a wholly legal Paedophile Information Exchange operating in England; that science-fiction author Sir Arthur C Clarke was a self-confessed paedophile, who lived in Ceylon where he could with impunity sexually abuse young boys (he actually boasted about it and defended the practice); that sex-tourism to the Far East for the purpose of abusing children was practised on a large scale, mostly unopposed; that from churches to public schools sexual abuse was rife to the point of being seen as virtually normal.

Add to this the general sexualisation of children that started some time early in the 1960s, with pop music in particular aimed at sexual arousal of pubescent girls, who were fainting at pop concerts and throwing their knickers on the stage. So what did you expect?

To me, this whole sordid affair is yet another demonstration of the British temperament: swinging from one extreme to another. In the 1960s, homosexuals were regarded as criminals and could be put in jail; in 2012, those who risk jail are clergymen who refuse to marry them in church.

From pretending that child abuse is a harmless play we've now progressed to banning parents from photographing school plays.

There are U-turns, and there are U-turns, and then there are the Brits.

Magda Hannay

Fleet, Hampshire

I am astonished that some people, despite all the evidence of Jimmy Savile's appalling serial abuse of minors mounting day after day, feel that it is wrong to condemn him for his offences because he is dead, unable to defend himself and was not convicted in court.

If we adopt that logic, then Adolf Hitler wasn't guilty of the murder of millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, physically and mentally handicapped children and other minorities either.

Savile has escaped punishment for his crimes in this world so we can only hope he is suffering for them in the next.

Robert Readman

Bournemouth, Dorset

I suppose one good thing to come out of all this, is that the BBC will have to junk all those old Top of the Pops tapes and give us a decent live music show

Pete Barrett

Colchester, Essex

Russell Group idea debunked

Lord Rees's suggestion (20 October) that, after two successful years elsewhere, students should be able to transfer to Russell Group universities, is sadly misguided.

It is one thing to shine at such as media studies and the like at the level required at the places where such people belong, but quite another to pick up difficult subjects such as sociology as taught at a real university.

These guinea pigs would be socially and intellectually out of place, have ideas above their station, and could gang up and cause trouble to their betters. A better idea would be to threaten to send Russell Group slackers to one of those ghastly former polytechnics to study something vocational. You say this Rees is the Astronomer Royal? You're sure he's not the Astrologist Royal?


Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Fiona ignores her own failings

I am very angry about Fiona Phillips's address to the new Oasis Academy in Southampton (26 October), denigrating a great school which was run by an outstanding headmaster, Fred Lowry.

I taught there in the late 1970s and remember the efforts he and his staff made to raise ambitions, with annual careers conventions, even job adverts from the Financial Times on the notice board. And any pupil behaving as reported, and assaulting a teacher, would have been expelled.

One of my colleagues brought her three children from other schools in the area to Millbrook; two are now successful GPs and the other is a classics teacher. Millbrook was a very successful and happy school, and the success was largely down to the skills of Fred Lowry.

It is so sad to see him blamed by her for what seems to be her own failings, and I hope he continues to enjoy his deserved retirement.

C Oliver


When I read Fiona Phillips's remarks at the re-opening of her former school (26 October), I realised she has not changed much since she left that school.

She said she was a "vile teenager". She is now in her fifties, but appears to have set out to humiliate her former teachers and to embarrass those around her, at what was intended to be a celebration.

Probably best not to invite her to functions until she has grown up.

Rita Hale

London N1

Lead into gold done at university

I am unsure what Alan Pearson (letters, 25 October) meant by ranking the petrol-from-air process between turning lead into gold and cold fusion. Turning lead into gold has been done by nuclear physicists, including colleagues at the University of Surrey, who induced reactions between lead and beryllium nuclei, fragmenting the lead into many elements, including gold.

Cold fusion was a mistaken claim by two chemists to have produced nuclear reactions in a test tube.

Paul Stevenson


I didn't say that, says Lord Bichard

I do not believe that pensioners should be pressured into work (Diary, 25 October). I have never said that and I would be the first to defend their right not to work.

My questions at the Lords Select Committee on Public Services and Demographic Change were represented as my views. They are not and never will be. The real issues we are considering are, "Are we prepared for the increased numbers of older people in Britain and are they getting a good deal from public services?"

Lord Bichard

House of Lords

HS2 protesters offered bribes

If we face mass widespread Government cuts and are being told to "tighten our belts", from where has the Government found this £1.3bn compensation for those along the proposed HS2 London-Birmingham route (report, 26 October)? If we have to be more financially aware and responsible, should not the Government do so as well rather than trying to quieten protesters with bribery?

Helen Prosser

Bletchley, Buckinghamshire

Ashes to ashes

Why does anyone want to import ash saplings, anyway (report, 26 October)? They sprout like weeds in my garden. If I didn't pull them up regularly, we would be overrun with ash trees.

David Rushton

Shoreham, Kent

Fair play?

Despite having always regarded the term "spectator sport" as something of an oxymoron, I've been rather pleased by the calls to equalise the coverage of men's and women's sport (letters, 27 October). Now if you can just pare back the men's coverage to that of the women's, that'll do very nicely.

Roger Harvey

Norwich, Norfolk


It's interesting to see unpaid work being given as part of the sentence for the Winterbourne View crew (report, 26 October), equating them with interns and job-seekers.

Sara Neill

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Crabby letter

It was amusing to see your report that the English carp-angling team "floundered" at the world championships (24 October). Evidently, unfair tactics by the hosts were the sole reason why England was so badly plaiced. But fishy puns can fall flat, seen from the editor's high perch. Sorry, I'm not trying to bait you, so I won't carp on.

Nigel Watson

East Horsley, Surrey

Chemical high

As any chemist will tell you (letters, 26 October), a chemical engineer is a person who does for profit what a chemist does for fun (see also "prostitution").


West Hagbourne, Oxfordshire