A PROPOSAL to restrict free bus travel for the disabled, which could save the council £400k, was slammed an ‘attack on the most vulnerable people in society’ by protestors outside the Civic Centre on Monday.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Berkshire and Reading Trades Union Council (RTUC) held a third protest against Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) proposals to restrict free bus travel for disabled people and their helpers in Reading.

Councillor Tony Page, lead for strategic environment, planning & transport, said the cuts could save £400,000 but that the precise amount is difficult to estimate.

A decision on the proposal – which would see the council revert to the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) – is expected on Monday September 24, at the Policy Committee.

Mary Cross, chairman of DPAC Berkshire, said: “What the council do not understand is there has been one cut after another.

“I do not think they get the cumulative impact on us. It will stop some people getting to hospital appointments, college and work.”

The Council is proposing to remove all discretionary elements and revert to the national scheme, which is the legal minimum.

The estimated 6,000 disabled access pass holders in Reading would no longer be able to travel for free in Reading before 930am or after 11pm, Monday-Friday, except for bank holidays.

The council would also no longer issue or accept companion bus passes – which allow carers of access pass holders to travel for free – nor provide free travel on ReadiBus services.

Nada Al-Sanjari, vice-president of RTUC, called the proposals “an attack on the most vulnerable group in society – the difference between getting out or being housebound.”

If agreed, the change will be implemented on April 1 2019. RBC reverted to the national scheme for older people in 2017.

John Hoggett, co-founder of Reclaim Reading, said: “The council talk about the loneliness agenda but they are contributing to it by cutting bus concessions.”

An eight-week public consultation, which received around 1500 responses, ended in July and a review will be presented at the Police committee on September 24.

Councillor Tony Page said: “We are legally not allowed to run a deficit. If we do not save the 400k we will have to find the saving somewhere else.

He added: “We genuinely haven’t taken a final decision yet.”