A former Gwynedd bus company boss has been found guilty of fraud and false accounting.
John David Hulme, 55, had denied charges relating to more than £800,000 in public money paid to Padarn Bus Ltd in claims for concessionary fares.
Caernarfon Crown Court heard the offences occurred between July 2011 and December 2012.
Hulme was suspended on an unrelated matter in July 2012 by which time £495,857.08 had been falsely claimed.
The court heard Hulme made inflated claims about the number of concessionary fare passengers who used the service.
Hulme and operations director Darren Price, who previously admitted fraud covering the period after Hulme was suspended, will be sentenced on Thursday.
Just a few comments received recently from visitors to our Blog:
Not happy, just logged in to get my bus pass at 62 can’t get my bus pass until i’m 64 this is discrimination and should taken the the EU court of law, we all pay our taxes to the same government yet the English are penalised with the date we can receive our bus pas why do we have to suffer, in Scotland and Wales they get it at 60 why are the English discriminated against? it’s not fair and it’s not politically correct. it’s time this was challenged in court. Roy
I retired at 55 but will be unable to have a bus pass or state pension until I am 66. I appreciate you have rules for state pension but why do some areas offer bus passes at 60 including Scotland and Wales. Being English certainly doesn’t pay! Leslie
Having received my bus pass at age 60 …and also my sister just got hers in London…I advised a friend she was entitled to hers. Now find I’m embarrassed having given her the wrong information as she lives in Yorkshire. Why is there such a discrepancy? Why are people entitled in London and Merseyside? Special people? Genie
I am shocked to find out that England is not giving free bus passes at 60 like it does to Scotland (I am Scottish) and Wales. I have the good fortune to be Scottish but residing in wales now. It is totally wrong not to give English the same as Scotland and Wales a free bus pass automatically at 60. wrong, wrong, wrong. I have an English friend who turns 60 this july who cannot claim free bus pass till quite a few years from now who cannot retire because she cant afford to and working in extreme pain from arthritis (in the nhs. of all places) and to add insult to injury so to speak ,cant even get a free bus pass to work. I will gladly join all of you in England in getting up a petition to fight this. It is discrimination at the highest level. By the way I would not have voted to break up the Union had I still been living in Scotland last year ( when I moved to Wales a few months before.) I am Scottish and proud to be but also British. We should all be equal in the British Isles. This is not fair for all of you in England. Please someone let me know what I can do to further your cause. An Angry Scotsman!!!!!!!!. Magregor
When the 39A service between Hay-on-Wye and Hereford looked set for the chop local businesses and residents offered to fund it and the Hay Ho! bus was born
When penny-pinching local authority bosses scrapped subsidies on a local bus route it threatened to leave pensioners in a Welsh town cut off.
The launch of Hay Ho! Bus servic
So when a group was formed to save the service they stepped in – and handed over their winter fuel allowances to keep the service on the road.
Tourism businesses in Hay-on-Wye, Powys, feared they would lose trade if their public transport link to Hereford on Sundays ended so they decided to shoulder the financial risk themselves.
Facing an estimated £6,000 shortfall for one year of Sunday buses the Hay Tourism Group set up a supporters’ club for the route. It has been named the Hay Ho! bus to make it more appealing than the plain old 39A.
The group has been taken aback not only by the number of people who have already paid the club’s £5 subscription fee but also by pensioners offering winter fuel allowances.
“We’ve had about £1,700 pledged,” said Anna Heywood, secretary of Hay Tourism Group. “We’ve got 29 supporters signed up. Some people have pledged winter fuel allowances.
“IN Newport recently with my husband and grandchild who is 16 months old and in a pushchair, we were going to visit my daughter in Maindee. We went to catch a green bus, number 8c.
My husband gave the driver our bus passes, but was told we would have to pay for the child.
When I asked him why we had to pay as we have never paid for him on any other bus service as he is a baby, the bus driver said he had worked on the buses for 17 years and a child has to pay because we were riding free.
I know a child has to be under five not to pay. We have taken our grandson on many bus rides and the driver has never asked us to pay for him.
STAGECOACH Group has threatened a legal challenge over plans by the Welsh Government to reduce the budget of its concessionary travel scheme.
The transport operator said it intends to bring a judicial review, which is a court proceeding where a judge looks at the lawfulness of a decision or action by a public body, unless the Welsh assembly’s plan is reconsidered before April 1.
The potential action comes after the Welsh Government recently agreed a funding package of £189 million for free bus travel in Wales for the next three years.
That is a reduction of more than 11% on the £213.3m that has been allocated during the past three years.
Around 720,000 people in Wales, including serving members and veterans from the armed forces, are eligible to use the scheme.
Stagecoach said its legal advisors suggest the Welsh Government has made an error by capping the scheme to fit within a budget as opposed to following a statutory principle that transport operators should be no better and no worse off as a result of a concessionary scheme.
That principle makes allowances so operators should not miss out on the fares they would have collected while also taking into account the likelihood that more people are likely to travel as a result of a concessionary scheme.
Perth based Stagecoach is the largest bus operator in Wales with seven depots, almost 400 vehicles and around 900 staff.
Service cuts and job losses will be inevitable if the Welsh Government cuts payments for free bus travel by more than 37% next year, bus professionals have warned.
When pensioners and disabled people across Wales were given unlimited free bus travel in 2002, all bus operators were compelled by law to carry pass holders without charging a fare.
The law also committed the Welsh Government to paying for each passenger at a rate which leaves the bus operator no better or worse off than if the free travel were unavailable.
Since 2002 the operators have been reimbursed 73.59% of their average single fare. This was reviewed and confirmed as the appropriate figure four years ago.
But the Welsh Government recently told the bus industry it intends to pay just 46% of the average fare from April 1. Managers say that would have a dramatic impact on their revenue, forcing them to withdraw services and reduce their fleets and staffing.
Pensioners who ride Welsh buses for free may have to pay a 10p flat fare in future, a senior bus manager has suggested as concerns mount over the scheme’s future.
The Welsh Government and bus operators agreed in 2011 to cap the budget for the concessionary scheme for three years, with an annual rise of up to 3% to cover inflation in bus operating costs. However, the costs of operating buses in Wales increased by 5.4% in the year to June 2013.
The Welsh Government has not started the negotiations over how the free travel will be funded from April, although councils need at least six months’ notice of any changes.
WalesOnline has learned that managers have already drawn up contingency plans for service withdrawals and possible depot closures if the Welsh Government implements an effective cut in the payment per concessionary passenger carried.
And last week Arriva Buses Wales said “potential forthcoming changes to the concessionary fares scheme” were among the reasons it plans to close all of its depots and services in Mid Wales in December.
Arriva is to axe six of its rural bus routes by Christmas – how will this affect our already ailing countryside economy?
There was a further blow to people living in rural areas this week with the news that Arriva is to cut six of its rural bus routes before Christmas.
To people who live in villages along those routes, those cuts will have a devastating impact.
There is an image of rural living that everyone inhabits a cosy cottage with a nearby school, village pub, a thriving corner shop and drives a rugged 4×4.
That might be true on Emmerdale but in the 21st century real world in North Wales, living in the country is not such an idyll.
The chances are if your village school hasn’t already shut it will be closing soon.
The pub, if you’ve got one, is struggling because of a series of factors – high rents, beer prices and the smoking ban being just a few.
The village shop and post office are probably a distant memory along with your doctor’s surgery and your local chapel.
Not every person living in our rural areas has access to a car. Even if they do, it doesn’t always meet the entire travelling needs of a family – work, school, shopping, Brownies, gym club, dentists etc.
Bus travel in Wales has slumped to its lowest since the Welsh Government launched free bus passes for over-60s and disabled people, new statistics reveal.
The fall of 6.9% in Welsh passenger journeys last year was more than twice the fall in either England or Scotland.
The decline coincided with the first stage of the Welsh Government’s 25% cut to bus funding – a deeper overall cut than in England and Scotland.
Statistics from the Department for Transport in London also reveal that Welsh bus fares increased by 6.9% last year – more than twice the rate of general inflation and outstripping fares increases in England and Scotland.
Campaigners warned of more people being forced into “transport poverty”, and urged the Welsh Government to reverse its policy of cutting bus funding from £33m in 2011-12 to just £25m this year.
The Welsh Government declined to comment on the statistics or explain how the bus situation could affect its policies on social inclusion, reducing carbon emissions, improving access to education, promoting public health and stimulating the economy
Our comment: 6.9% increase in fares seems to have had a clear effect, so in fact the increase has brought no additional income to bus operators, as more people can no longer afford the fares.
A new squad of Welsh footballers has tasted international competition.
The first Wales learning disability team faced Northern Ireland at Bangor City’s Nantporth Stadium in Gwynedd, losing 2-0 to the visitors.
More than 700 players represent clubs in the Welsh Pan-Disability League and 16 have been chosen for the fixture.
“It’s a massive achievement and I can’t say just how proud I am to be involved in it and it’s the same for the lads,” said team manager Grant Kalahar.
“All of these lads have learning difficulties. There are other attributable issues as well, such as the frustrations that come with not being able to learn and there’s behavioural problems attached.
“So what we tend to do is get to know the players absolutely inside out, so we can see the little triggers early.”
Wales’ £70m-a-year free bus pass scheme is highly vulnerable to fraud – with alcoholics using them to travel to the pub among other widespread problems, say industry insiders.
The cost of the free travel scheme has soared from £17.7m to £69m in the decade since it was launched by the Welsh Government in 2002.
Bus managers say nearly a third of free journeys are taken by under-60s who have been judged to need a pass, even though 90% of the free passes are issued to pensioners.
And they argue that many of the passes are routinely misused, with alcoholics using passes – issued to them because of their dependency – to travel to the pub.
A Welsh transport consultant, who also asked not to be named, said he had heard evidence of this from drivers on a route between rural towns.
“There’s been some animosity from other passengers that alcoholics have a free pass to get drunk and they have to pay a fare, which is a pint or two,” he said.
Our comment: is this anything more than anicdotal evidence from a few disgruntled bus drivers? We doubt that empowering bus drivers to ask for details of the purpose of a journey would go down well.
A REMARKABLE nine out of 10 people with a learning disability say they have been the victim of a hate crime, figures show.
Two charities will this week – learning disability week – call for more action to protect people who experience such crime and abuse and to prosecute perpetrators.
Mencap Cymru and All Wales People First will also call on Welsh police forces to support people with a learning disability who have been victims of hate crime and on the CPS in Wales to improve conviction rates.
Although surveys show hate crime and bullying towards people with a learning disability is common, the number of people who report these crimes is far lower.
Jonathan Richards, who lives in Carmarthen and is a member of the All Wales People First national committee, was attacked at Aberystwyth train station in 2010.
Read more on Wales Online
and also the Independent