Category Archives: Government cuts

Free bus pass funding becoming ‘nearly impossible’ for councils

Funding free bus passes is becoming “nearly impossible” for councils, the Local Government Association has warned, as the number of journeys taken falls to a 12 year low.

Older and disabled bus users have been told by the LGA that subsidising free travel while having to find billions of pounds worth of savings and protect other vital services is a nearly insurmountable task.

Free bus passes are protected by law for over-65’s and disabled customers, but with less money being committed by the government councils are struggling to fulfill their statutory duties of providing good, reliable services with passenger numbers dropping significantly.

Local authority bus budgets in England and Wales were slashed by £20.5 million last year – the eighth consecutive annual cut.
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Bus travel has fallen to its lowest demand since 2006, and ten per cent fewer journeys being taken than ten years ago.

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Can Tories claim to be the party of good financial management any more ?

We seem to be nearing the crunch on Brexit, though the prospects for a happy settlement don’t seem good. The Tories used to brag they were the party of good financial management, but that will clearly no longer hold water. They have got us into a right mess on the Brexit front with potential for dire consequences for the economy, said they wanted us to stay in but held a referendum that predictably didn’t go that way. Labour didn’t help as they really turn up (to use a football term) for the debate.

Add to which most people seem now to recognise that public spending was squeezed too hard, leaving local councils near impossible tasks to manage whilst coping with an ageing population and the Universal Benefits project being seriously misjudged..
So we may get an announcement soon on a proposed deal which the governing party may throw out, if so we shall be in an even worse mess.

Our feeling on a non-party dogmatic basis is that if a deal emerges the PM should be supported, and lets move on. Otherwise the Tories will be at risk of not being trusted for a long time to come.

Grim state of UK’s bus routes revealed as figures point to 28-year low

The dire situation could get worse with even more routes under threat as Tory cuts bite deeper into town hall budgets.

Bus routes are disappearing almost as fast as railways in the 1960s under the Beeching cuts.

They are already at levels not seen since the 1980s, leaving many people isolated and cut off from towns and cities.

And the dire situation could get worse with even more routes under threat as Tory cuts bite deeper into town hall budgets.

Public transport campaigners and Mirror readers say people are being left unable to reach their doctors’ surgeries and shops.

In the 1960s, thousands of miles of track were scrapped and hundreds of stations closed after a report by British Railways boss Dr Richard Beeching. It could be the same for bus routes.

Since 2010, the Tories have nearly halved funding in England by £182million, fares have gone up by 13% above inflation and 3,347 routes have been axed or reduced.

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Local authority bus budgets cut by 45% – £182m – since 2010/11

Local authority bus budgets in England and Wales have been cut by 45% – £182m – since 2010/11, according to a transport campaign group.

The Campaign for Better Transport, in analysis released on Monday, said funding for supported buses dropped by £20.5m last year – the eight year in a row budgets have been cut.

Steve Chambers, Campaign for Better Transport’s public transport campaigner, said: “The slow death of supported bus continues, with local authority bus budgets suffering yet another cut this year.”

He added that losing a bus service can have “huge implications” for a community, such as preventing commuters getting to work, affecting peoples’ mental and physical health and wellbeing, and an inevitable effect on congestion and air pollution.

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, said: “It’s nearly impossible for councils to keep subsidising free travel while having to find billions of pounds worth of savings and protect other vital services like caring for the elderly and disabled, protecting children, filling potholes and collecting bins.

“Faced with significant funding pressures, many across the country are being forced into taking difficult decisions to scale back services and review subsidised routes.”

A government spokesperson said: “We provide around £250m every year to support bus services and a further £1bn to support older and disabled people using the free bus pass scheme, benefitting people up and down the country.”

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Our comment: – a sad story, the decline of bus services in the UK

Protest rally plan over free bus passes as state pension age changes

A campaign group made up of women adversely affected by changes in the state pension age is set to hold a protest rally this month.

Members of The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) group will have to wait several years for their pension following the Government’s decision to raise their retirement age to 66 by 2020.

The previous age had been 60, meaning as many as 220,000 women from across the West Midlands have been forced to change their retirement plans as a result of the decision.

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Britain’s bus network has shrunk to levels last seen in the late 1980s

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

Major errors in government judgement on local authority funding apparent ?

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.

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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”.