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.

Over-60s to keep free bus pass privileges in Scotland following a review

Following a lengthy review Over-60s will continue to enjoy free bus travel in Scotland, allaying fears the age could be raised, transport secretary Michael Matheson announced today. It follows a Scottish Government review of the £202 million a year scheme, which sparked concerns that eligibility could be narrowed because of its rising cost. In fact, Mr Matheson said the national concessionary travel scheme would be extended to include those travelling with eligible disabled children under five. He said more than 3,000 families and children could benefit.
Earlier threat of an age eligibility increase

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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

Threats to pensioners from increased taxation

Numerous birds are coming home to roost from George Osborne’s cuts of a few years ago. e.g

  • Spending on the military now considered too low
  • Funding for the NHS not sufficient to meet the needs of an increase in the numbers of elderly people, and advances in technology.
  • Local government bodies getting into difficulty

(on the last item I note from our local borough council rates leaflet that goverment grants to the council have declined steadily from £130 millions in 2013/14 to approx £20 millions in the current financial year, and will reach zero by 2020/21, whilst demands for social care change in the opposite direction.)

No wonder bus routes are being cut to a stage where older or disabled people need to look to other forms of transport, and is likely to cause increased numbers of cars on the road.

Proposals to hit the elderly include a proposal that pensioners should continue to pay national insurance into old age:

The tax that pensioners should pay to fund care

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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