Had a very heated argument around the dinner table the other night about politics when parents came to visit. Bad idea, I know – we talk politics and religion with them but mercifully, sex is off-limits. Let’s keep it that way too.

Anyhow what got people wound up that evening was a question whether OAPs (Old age pensioners, to you and I) should be entitled to free bus passes. It’s not a new thing, of course, free bus passes have been around for a bit.

Essence of the dispute: I argue that it’s a populist measure by the government to secure a vote from a large electorate.  The older generation of course thinks it’s a brilliant idea coz they get something for nothing.

What’s the problem with that? Not all OAPs actually do need a free bus pass. Many don’t travel. Some cannot even be bothered to go and get the bus pass (I personally know of some). So, whilst the government is saying they are offering this package free of charge, at the cost of £m to them, in reality the take-up is smaller and costs them less. And it’s a great vote winner. So all in the name of spin, as ever with Labour.

Any inspired solutions? If the government does want to give an extra benefit to OAPs, why not just give them the extra cash and let them decide how they would want to spend it. At the same time this would also reduce the administration costs of this scheme, which must be considerable.

Who pays? Of course all of this comes at the taxpayers’ expense. And knowing how much money is generally squandered by Labour on various schemes I am overall less than thrilled at the prospect. Why not make cuts elsewhere in your runaway spending spree, Mr Brown?

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