Fury as hundreds shiver in Freedom Pass queue

ELDERLY folk have blasted the council over their handling of Freedom Pass renewals after waiting in the cold for nearly an hour. Pensioners were expected to bring their applications for the free travel card to designated centres in the borough last week,

ELDERLY folk have blasted the council over their handling of Freedom Pass renewals after waiting in the cold for nearly an hour.

Pensioners were expected to bring their applications for the free travel card to designated centres in the borough last week, instead of going to their nearest post offices.

But they say this resulted in long queues as the centres were only open for one day at a time and had to cover large catchment areas.

Les Underwood, 84, waited outside the community hall in Rectory Road, Dagenham, for 45 minutes so his friend could renew her pass on Wednesday (January 20).

He said: "There were lots of very frail people there. I'm lucky, I'm quite fit for my age and I still drive so I took the car down there.

"But there were many old ladies and gents, some quite disabled, who had walked. Then they had to wait in the freezing cold for nearly an hour."

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"One woman was shaking and almost passed out. She didn't want to leave her place in the queue.

"My carer had to persuade her to go inside and sit down."

Changes were made to the Freedom Pass this year, which now must contain a passport-sized photograph of the cardholder.

The council sent letters to residents over 60, instructing them to bring a photograph of themselves and proof of address.

Mr Underwood claims the pass application form stated he should bring his passport as identification.

"When I finally got to the front of the queue there was a notice on the doors saying they wouldn't accept a passport or medical card," he said.

"They would only accept a bill or driver's licence to identify you. I don't know why they couldn't issue them from the post office like other boroughs.

"It would be so much easier. The staff all know you in there from going to get your pension."

He said the difference between the council's letter and Freedom Pass forms was confusing.

A council spokesman said: "Barking and Dagenham Council has taken responsibility for handling the renewal of freedom passes because it enables us to provide a more personal service.

"Because of the icy weather in the first week of renewals, the council asked people to wait until the weather improved. This led to bigger queues in the second week than were anticipated.

"A member of staff has contacted Mr Underwood to apologise for any inconvenience he suffered on his visit to Rectory Road.

"However, we are confident the vast majority of the 22,000 applications will run smoothly.

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