FURIOUS disabled residents staged a protest outside the council offices this week amid plans to scrap 24/7 free bus travel.

Reading Borough Council is consulting on proposals to remove the Access Pass for its disabled residents.

The council wants the national scheme instead, which only permits free bus travel between 9.30am and 11pm, Monday to Friday.

They can be used anytime on weekends and bank holidays.

A group of residents, led by prominent disability campaigner Merry Cross, organised a demonstration outside the council's Bridge Street offices on Monday, June 11.

Simone Illger, said: "I’m a wheelchair user and I can’t use a bus on my own - I always need someone to push me.

"In effect they are my arms and legs. They’d have no reason to be on the bus with me if I didn’t need their assistance.

"I’d love to be able to travel independently - which is something most people take for granted."

The campaign is being spearheaded by Berkshire Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

Mrs Cross, chairman, added: "Many disabled people depend on concessionary fares for themselves and people who must travel with them to assist them – about 6,000 in Reading. Without the free fares (for example, if a parent had to pay to take a young person to Reading College 5 days a week) study could become impossible.

"Without them, some people with physical impairments won’t be able to afford even hospital appointments."

If agreed, the changes will come into force from April next year.

Tony Page, deputy leader of the council, blamed hefty government cuts for forcing the authority's hand.

He said: "This is yet another example of how Government cuts are impacting on the public services which are offered by local councils and the people that rely on them.

"The reality is subsidies like the one Reading offered for concessionary fares, are virtually impossible in the face of the severe cuts which have taken place at a time when demand on key services, like adults and children’s social care, are rising to unprecedented levels."

The consultation ends on July 20.