Category Archives: Government cuts

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.

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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”.

Social care postcode gap widens for older people

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.

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INCREASING the age for a free bus pass in Scotland would save £45 million a year

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.

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THE age at which Scots qualify for a free bus pass is to rise

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.”

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What happened to £72,000 cap on amount pensioners would have to pay before state takes over

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.

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Tories could axe flagship pensions triple lock after 2020, Philip Hammond suggests

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.


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Poorest pensioners to lose at least £300 a year in ‘new bedroom tax’

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.
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Minster hints pensioner benefit protections may be dropped after 2020

Damian Green

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.

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