Rising car use and cuts to public funding are being blamed for a loss of 134 million miles of coverage over the past decade alone.
Some cut-off communities have taken to starting their own services, with Wales and north-west England hardest hit.
The government has encouraged councils and bus companies to work together to halt the decline.
One lobbying group fears the scale of the miles lost are a sign buses are on course to be cut to the same extent railways were in the 1960s.
During that decade thousands of miles of track were scrapped and hundreds of stations closed following a report by British Railways Board chairman Dr Richard Beeching.
Chris Todd, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “We are not talking a loss of that level, but we are heading that way.
“We live in a society that is quite prepared to completely abandon certain groups of people and leave them with no options of getting around.”
Communities around the UK say the shrinking bus network is leaving people unable to reach basic services such as shops and GP surgeries.
Our comment: How much bigger might the decline in services be without the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme which was introduced nationally in 2008 ? Crises of viability of local bus services throughout England are likely to have arisen from one end of the country to the other.
read more on detailed BBC report
George Osborne boasts of having reduced the government’s financial deficit through continued austerity, but it appears clearer by the day that a significant part of the cuts were based on negligent misjudgements of the ability of local government to absorb those cuts whist maintaining essential services. And since May has become prime minister, we have had an autumn statement and a spring budget that have barely deviated from George Osborne’s spending plans.
It is difficult to come to any other conclusion when major Tory shires are making the headlines by their ability to manage major deficits in funding – and the warnings were there a year ago Surrey County Council had plans to cut millions of pounds from frontline services in face of Conservative austerity. Surrey council has backed away at the last moment from a controversial plan to poll voters on a 15% rise in council tax, mainly to pay for social care, instead recommending a rise next year of just under 5%.
Surrey “Britain’s richest county” is facing a £100 million cash crisis as scores of councils struggle to close budget deficits, an investigation has found.
Surrey County Council has one of the worst financial shortfalls in the country, according to research seen by The Times. The disclosure came as nearly every part of England warned of tax rises to make ends meet and half of local authorities prepared to cut services for children. Nine out of ten councils will be millions of pounds over budget by the end of the financial year.
Surrey’s woes will alarm Downing Street as it is a solidly Conservative council and the county is represented at Westminster by seven senior government ministers.
Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council quietly issued a section 114 notice last Friday to signal that it had effectively gone bust, a victim of rapidly shrinking income and rising demand for the social care services it must legally provide. It is the first town hall to be brought down by austerity, but it may not be the last.
The surprise is not so much that it happened but that it took so long. The county has been stripping back its budget for years. Even in 2014, when it unveiled its ambitious (and ultimately futile) “next generation” plan to try to put the council on a financially sustainable basis, it warned that meeting the demands of another five years of cuts was “getting towards the impossible”.
Older people in England’s most deprived areas are twice as likely to lack the help they need for basic acts, like using the toilet or taking medicine, compared with those in the richest neighbourhoods, according to figures that expose gross inequalities in access to social care.
The official analysis is another sign that years of cuts have damaged the ability of councils in poor areas to meet the growing demand for care, potentially putting significant pressure on the NHS. It comes on the back of the crisis over social care that is still unresolved. There have been a series of warnings about a multibillion-pound funding black hole and increasingly severe consequences for the health service.
A third of men aged 65 and over in the most deprived areas (33%) have an unmet need for at least one so-called “activity of daily living”, such as washing their face and hands or getting out of bed. In the least deprived areas the figure falls to 15%. Meanwhile, 42% of women over 65 in the most deprived areas have an unmet need for at least one such activity, compared with 22% of their counterparts in the richest areas.
Earlier this year The Sunday Post revealed how the Scottish Government is planning to increase the eligibility age for the popular concessionary travel scheme.
It is expected this will see the minimum age rise from 60 to 65 with current pass-holders unaffected.
Figures released under freedom of information laws show that last year £45m of the £187.7m spent on the free bus pass scheme was accounted for by users in the 60 to 64 age bracket.
Around one in five holders of the free bus pass are between the ages of 60 and 64, with many of them working commuters.
Meanwhile, a new poll has revealed the majority of older Scots have backed the age increase.
Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman Neil Bibby MSP said: “The SNP is failing passengers up and down the country.
“Under the nationalists, vital services have been cut while ticket prices have gone up. Communities have been left stranded as key routes have been scrapped.
Think you’ll get a free bus pass at 60? Think again
THE age at which Scots qualify for a free bus pass is to rise, The Sunday Post can reveal.
In the face of soaring costs, SNP ministers are planning to increase the eligibility age for the popular concessionary travel scheme from 60.
A public consultation on the move will get under way later this year but it is understood current holders of the free bus pass will be unaffected.
The move was meant to have been launched this month but has now been put off until after May’s council elections.
The plan would leave Scots worse off than many parts of England, such as London, where the concessionary travel scheme starts at 60.
Around 200,000 people between the ages of 60 and 65 currently hold a free bus pass with many people who have retired early enjoying the benefits of the card.
Last month a £10 million black hole in the funding for the bus pass scheme was revealed in the Scottish Government’s draft budget.
Grilled by MSPs on whether entitlement for bus pass holders would remain unchanged in the wake of this cash shortfall, a top Transport Scotland official pointedly said: “For those who have the card, yes, absolutely.”
Fifty thousand pensioners have been forced to sell their homes to pay for social care in the last year, despite a Government pledge that nobody would have to use their house to pay.
House of Commons library figures show that tens of thousands of older people have put their properties on the market to cover care costs, amid fears that the trend may continue because councils do not have enough money for social care.
It comes just days after ministers announced that local authorities will be allowed to hike council tax to try and plug the funding black hole which could increase bills by £90 next year.
Councils across England will be allowed to increase the social care precept element of the bill by an additional one per cent next year and the same in the year after, adding up to a six per cent hike by 2018/19.
The Conservative manifesto promised that older people would not be forced to sell their homes to pay for care and announced a £72,000 cap on how much pensioners would have to pay before the state takes over their bills.
he Government’s flagship triple lock that protects pensioners’ incomes could be scrapped after the next General Election because people are living longer, Phillip Hammond has revealed.
The lock was introduced in 2012 and guarantees that the state pension rises each year by whichever of price inflation, average earnings growth or 2.5 per cent is highest.
The Chancellor yesterday said that the state pension will continue to rise until at least 2020 but suggested that changes may be needed after that to “tackle the challenge of rising longevity”.
It comes after growing fears over “intergenerational fairness” as pensioners have been sheltered from the impact of austerity cuts while working age poverty increases.
Poor pensioners and bedroom tax
Thousands of poorer pensioners will be hit by a new “bedroom tax”, despite the Government’s promises to protect the elderly from the hugely controversial benefit cuts.
They are poised to lose at least £300 a year because their homes will be deemed to be “underoccupied”, slashing their incomes or forcing them to move – away from family and friends, or to flats that are unsuitable for older people.
In some cases, the financial pain will be greater – one housing association has identified pensioners in part of the North who are set to lose a staggering £1,700 a year.
Damian Green, the new Work and Pensions Secretary, has indicated pensioner benefits may be cut after 2020 as he pledged to tackle “intergenerational fairness”.
In his first major interview since taking up the job, Mr Green defended the government’s current support for pensioners and heralded the fall in poverty among the elderly.
However he also said it was “absolutely” necessary to consider “over time” whether different generations are getting a fair share of the proceeds of economic growth.
It follows criticism of David Cameron’s decision to ring-fence pensioners from austerity cuts, introducing a “triple lock” on pensions and sticking with a promise of free bus passes and TV licenses.
PENSIONERS waved placards as they staged a protest against council plans to demolish a city centre toilet block – but their pleas fell on deaf ears.
Members of the North Staffs Pensioners’ Convention descended on Stoke-on-Trent City Council yesterday to show their opposition to the proposals for Crown Bank toilets in Hanley.
They were supporting a motion to full council from Labour councillor Joan Bell, which called on the authority to refurbish and reopen the facilities.
But despite their backing, the motion was rejected 21 votes to 16 after being opposed by Conservative and City Independent members.
The coalition groups say the toilets, which were closed in November, attracted anti-social behaviour and were not safe to keep open.
STAFFORD’S bus depot is set to shut next month, with the loss of jobs and a number of town centre bus routes.
From September 3 Arriva’s services to Wildwood are set to be withdrawn, although a service along Cannock Road will be maintained, and services to Baswich will be reduced and amended. A section of the route between County Hospital and Staffordshire Technology Park is also being axed.
Route 76, between Stafford and Wolverhampton, will cease its standard service, Arriva has said, and the firm will no longer run the corridor between Wolverhampton and Penkridge outside of the Sunday service. Penkridge to Stafford will still be served by route 75
Rob Cheveaux, Area Managing Director for Arriva Midlands (West), said: “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, low passenger numbers on some of our routes have meant that it is no longer commercially viable for us to continue operating them as they currently are. Although we are regretful for any potential inconvenience this will cause people living along these routes, we have, where possible, worked to find alternative solutions which will be sustainable in the long-term and will enable those customers affected to still be served by a simpler, stronger bus service.
THE revelations that nearly a third of all bus journeys taken in Yorkshire are free concessions and cost the taxpayer £100m, will no doubt raise a few eyebrows. In North Yorkshire the figure is even higher with these concessionary fares for the elderly and disabled accounting for nearly half of all journeys. On the face of it this sounds like an awful lot of money to be spending on subsidised bus fares with critics arguing the numbers simply don’t stack up at a time of major spending cuts. However, the biggest concern is that the elderly and vulnerable will be left in a situation where they have a free bus pass – but no bus to travel on. As wise owl Coun John Blackie, North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) member for Hawes, points out, this undermines the whole point of having such a scheme. But something has to be done. Local bus services are an essential lifeline for many elderly, vulnerable and disabled people – particularly those living in more rural areas – giving them a degree of independence without which they would be at risk of becoming more socially isolated which can, in turn, lead to other health problems.
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Our comment: Our editor, having lived in Cllr Blackie’s neck of the woods, confirms that the value of a bus pass in places like rural Wensleyale is negligible compared to urban areas due to the paucity of bus services. And we shouldn’t overlook either the fact that older people are using their bus passes to go out and spend money which the rural economy needs.