A new start for Rothercard - council bids to bring discount card up to date
CONCESSION scheme Rothercard is being modernised — after barely being touched since the days of discount music cassettes 30 years ago.
It was launched as an “anti-poverty initiative” by Rotherham Council in 1993 — but now only seven per cent of the 144,000 eligible residents carry a card.
A streamlined sign-up process is promised, along with new discounts including five per cent off a brown bin for garden waste.
Luke Sayers, RMBC director of customer, information and digital services, said: “The world has moved on since 1993 but I think it’s fair to say this scheme didn’t.
“Certainly, in the last four or five years, there’s been no ‘owner’ from an officer’s perspective.
“Although well-intentioned, it really wasn’t fit for purpose in the world we live in today.
“Some of our residents won’t even know what audio cassettes are! That gives an example of how it got rather stale, if we are putting it mildly.”
Current benefits of having a Rothercard include discounts on bulky waste collections, pest control services, replacement bins, and leisure activities at Rother Valley Country Park and the council’s four leisure centres.
New offers — approved by cabinet — include ten per cent off hot drinks at the Clifton Park Museum, Thrybergh Country Park and Rother Valley Country Park cafes. The garden waste subscription discount will be added from February next year.
Eligibility will be streamlined to adults on low incomes by tying the scheme to council tax support, but the young person’s category will be widened to include all 16 to 21-year-olds.
The plan is for the relaunch to be a platform onto which more benefits are added.
A “universal” card could also be offered to all residents, tied into “shop local” promotions with businesses across the borough.
Cllr Dave Sheppard, cabinet member for social inclusion, said: “As you will see with the changes that there are to the criteria of eligibility, the cost of living crisis was first and foremost in the minds of the working group.
“Also, what we wanted to do was to simplify the scheme because it was very complicated.”
Cllr Michael Bennett-Sylvester said it had been “a joy” to be part of the working group refreshing Rothercard.
He added: “We have had freedom to think of possibilities while getting advice to ground what we wanted to do in reality.
“I welcome the biggest change that will see an expansion in the number of younger people who will receive discounts and if the discounts mean they go to the Civic for a play or go to Rother Valley for watersports, I hope it will establish life long habits and passions.
“We know there is a lot to do from promoting the card to monitoring the impact and hopefully growing the range and depth of discounts, but think this is a great start.”