IT is easy to believe if one listens to the opposition that we are hammering the elderly of this borough when it comes to bus passes.

That is most definitely not the case. There are actually more than 24,000 residents of pensionable age in our borough yet just over 5,200 users of the scheme of which just over 2,500 pay £36 for a zonal pass.

The Hertsmere bus pass scheme provides several types of passes.

The most popular is the zonal scheme which provides borough wide free travel.

The cost of this pass is £167 each. This means that those who currently pay £36 per year for their pass have the other £131 met from the council's finances.

In former days, when this council had large sums of interest on our investments, the cost of the scheme was met in this way.

Nowadays, with most of this investment expended on sports centres, other borough-wide facilities and so on the £750,000 cost of this scheme is met by income from Council Tax payers.

This means that for every zonal pass issued, on average, every household in the borough pays almost £22 to subsidise it.

The question we have to ask ourselves is do we believe it's unfair to ask every zonal pass holder who is not on benefit to pay just 70p per week, or one single journey, for unlimited use of our buses, while the other £131 per pass is met by every council taxpayer in the borough?

We believe it's more than fair for zonal pass holders to pay just 20 per cent of the cost of the pass while every household across the borough pays the other 80 per cent.

There is another very large group of pass holders also currently utilising the zonal pass.

They are residents on benefit who make up one third that's over 1,400 of the total number of zonal pass holders. These benefit pass holders currently pay £18 for their zonal pass.

I know that this has troubled both myself and the Conservative administration for sometime.

There are enough demands on all our personal resources to meet the costs of everyday life. For those people on benefit, that job becomes that much harder.

And that is why we have decided to scrap the charge of a zonal pass for a person on benefit from 1 April.

That means that more than 1,400 residents of Hertsmere will shortly receive their zonal pass for free.

This administration cares about all our residents, young and old. And let me assure all your readers that while we stay in charge of this council, there should be no doubt about that.

Councillor Spencer S Pitfield, Portfolio Holder for Infrastructure and Transportation, Hertsmere Council.