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 1908 ? Crises of viability of local bus services throughout England are likely to have arisen from one end of the country to the other.
A Carlisle lady calls for support for a petition to reduce the qualifying age for a bus pass to age 60 in England. Christine Russell thinks it is unfair that women in parts of the country get a free pass at age 60, while others are forced to wait until they are 65 or more..
Our comment: And to rub salt into the wounds people in Scotland can get a bus pass at age 60, which also entitles them to free standard class rail travel on journeys to and from Berwick-upon-Tweed and Carlisle
Understandable how people in England feel where passes are now only available from about age 65 and increasing further in the years ahead, whilst in Scotland, Wales & N Ireland passes are available at age 60.
PS: why is the campaign for women only ?
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 ago30th March 2017 when it was revealed that 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 Councilquietly 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”.
In Scotland people aged 60 or over are holding their breaths whilst the outcome of The Scottish Government’s consultation on the future of bus pass entitlement in Scotland is awaited. The closing date for responses was November 17th 2017. In brief the 3 options consulted on are:
make no change to the scheme, leaving the eligibility rules as they are (i.e. age 60); or
raise the age of eligibility for both men and women in one step from 60 to the (female) State Pension age (which will be 65 in November 2018 and will increase to 68 over a number of years )
raise the age of eligibility for men and women progressively towards the State Pension age (see 2 above) by annual increases of one year or half a year to the age of eligibility.
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.
NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.
Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.
Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.
The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.
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The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.
Our comment: A founding principal of the foundation of the NHS was created out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. We regard the way hospitals are charging for hospital parking is incompatible with that principal.
Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.
The Scottish Government’s proposal to raise the eligibility age for concessionary travel could have a damaging effect on bus services in South-West Scotland, SWestrans, the area’s regional transport partnership, has warned.
Responding to Transport Scotland’s concessionary fares consultation (LTT 15 Sep), SWestrans says that any raising of the age eligibility criteria could see the number of bus journeys fall.
Council chiefs are set to reject proposals to raise the age limit on free bus travel — as they call on ministers to protect local services.
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on a proposal to raise the age at which free bus travel can be claimed from 60 to 65.
The proposed change could take effect next year, when the women’s state pension age is equalised with that of men at 65.
However, Dundee City Council council bosses are officially opposed to the move and next week members look set to ratify a statement that will be sent to ministers — saying occasional bus users are being hit by higher prices needed to fund the scheme.
The council said in its statement: “The bus is primarily used by people travelling around their local communities — again people mainly from low-income households, elderly and disabled, women and younger people. The Government should be safeguarding expenditure for those modes of transport that support those with most need in society.
“If Government is to push ahead with this change, a significant proportion of the savings should be ring-fenced for supporting the local bus network.”
A report to be considered at the city development committee on Monday states that the current reimbursement system has driven up the costs of adult single tickets — making bus travel for occasional users seem expensive.