St John’s Wood MBE left stranded as taxi subsidy is axed

An inspirational wheelchair-bound pensioner from St John’s Wood says she will be unable to care for dozens of disabled people after the council stopped subsidising her taxi journeys.

Kathleen Bryan, of Cunningham Place, was awarded an MBE in 2008 in recognition of her voluntary work in the community over the past 40 years.

A founding member or chairwoman of five local organisations for elderly and disabled people, Ms Bryan has also received the Paul Hope award and CityWest Homes Housing Heroes award for her work.

But she says she will be unable to continue her work after Westminster Council ruled she was no longer eligible for a Taxicard as she is not on benefits. The card allows disabled people black cab journeys at a reduced rate.

Westminster’s Taxicard scheme is solely funded by the council and is separate from the London-wide scheme available in the majority of boroughs.

“I can’t get on and off a bus unless I have someone else with me and I don’t have the money to pay for all of my taxi journeys,” said the 65-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer.

“I go out and visit people and, if they have problems, I try to help them. Without the Taxicard, I just won’t be able to do all the things I currently do.

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“I’m furious. It’s totally out of order and it’s not only affecting me. It’s affecting all the people I look after.

“I look after one person who is 40 and he lives with his mother. He is totally reliant on his mother but, because she pays full rent, he has had his Taxicard taken away.

“With the day centres closing, people are stuck at home looking at four walls so they need to be able to leave the house.

“I have letters from my GP and my consultant supporting the fact that I need a Taxicard but the council just completely ignores it.”

St John’s Wood resident Stan Brown, 88, who has also had his Taxicard taken away, called the cuts “disgusting”.

Westminster North MP Karen Buck says the council’s cuts are hitting their vulnerable residents.

“The speed and depth of cuts and Westminster’s financial frailty have led to real hardship, trapping elderly and disabled people in their homes,” she said.

But adult services boss Cllr Daniel Astaire said that the changes were necessary due to financial constraints. “Changing the criteria was a difficult decision that we considered carefully,” he said. “I believe the changes will mean that the service can continue for those who most need it.”

He added that other transport options were available for people no longer eligible for a Taxicard.