My colleague, Marc, recently alerted my to a great offer from Brighton and Hove buses for regular bus users in the City. As a result of the introduction of smart cards, big savings can be made on the cost of fares. A day saver with a smart card is £3.20, from a shop in advance £4.00 and from the bus driver £4.40. A weekly saver is £15 with the smart card and £19 from a shop and the monthly saver is £58 with the smart card and £68 from a shop.
As a regular bus user (I’m one of those relatively rare individuals who not only doesn’t have a car, but I’ve never learned to drive), I certainly will be getting a smart card.
Now, contrary to appearances, this post isn’t a free plug for Roger French or Brighton and Hove Buses. It is a post about digital and financial exclusion. A few years ago the was some research that said that it costs those who are poor more than £1,000 per annum to pay for basic items than people like me who are not poor. It is known as the ‘Poverty Premium’. This is how it works:
If you are digitally and financially rich, you can advantage of shopping around on the Internet for the best gas and electricity deals, get discounts for paying by direct debit, and taking advantage of similar opportunities. Credit through my bank or mortgage company is cheaper for me than someone who has to take their chances with payday loan companies or worst still door step lenders. If I need a new cooker, I have the disposable income to buy one. If you have to use one of the infamous high street outlets, the cooker that would cost me £159 cash, will cost you £406 when charges and high interest rates are taken into account.
And now we have smart cards. I will, once again, benefit, from a daily saver that costs me £3.20 and some clients of BHT £4.40 from the driver.
The challenge for BHT, for Brighton and Hove Buses, for the City Council, is to find ways that we can overcome digital and financial exclusion. At BHT we are making available affordable Internet access for all out clients. Making it meaningful access is also a challenge, and overcoming financial exclusion is a major challenge. We are working closely with the City Council on its financial inclusion strategy, but my fear is that with reforms to welfare benefits and rising unemployment, the financial divide will grow.