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National ‘free bus pass’ scheme unfunded by £652 million as Tory cuts continue to bite

February 21, 2019 1:00 PM


As the Chancellor announces its largest January borrowing surplus meaning Government finances were in surplus by £14.9bn last month; the largest January surplus since records began in 1993, we report on the funding crisis for public transport services.

'The Government needs to properly fund the national free bus pass scheme if it wants councils to be able to maintain our essential bus services and reduce congestion'. said Cllr Adele Morris, LGA Lib Dem Transport spokesperson. Transport Vouchers

The funding gap for the concessionary bus fare scheme in England, which provides free off-peak bus travel for older and disabled people, has grown to an estimated £652 million, new analysis for the Local Government Association reveals.

Councils are warning that, unless Government addresses this widening gap in the Spending Review, vulnerable residents could be left isolated and unsupported, particularly those in rural areas. Communities could also see increased congestion and poorer air quality. Since 2010/11 more than 3,000 supported bus services have been reduced, altered or withdrawn

The National Concessionary Travel Scheme is a statutory duty administered by councils, which are having to increasingly fill the gap between the cost and government funding for the scheme with their own limited resources.

To try and do this, councils have been forced to reduce spending on discretionary concessionary fares across England, from £115 million in 2014/15 to £85 million in 2017/18 - a fall of 26 per cent.

This is less money being spent on providing supported rural bus services, discretionary subsidised bus services, such as free peak travel, post-16 school transport, companion-free travel, or assistance for young person's travel.

Earlier this month we highlighted the concerns of Halesworth residents following the decision by Konnect Buses to remove the service which also covers Southwold meaning that there will be no through buses between Halesworth, Bungay and Norwich.

Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Baroness Jenny Randerson added:

"People deserve better. Liberal Democrats would create a nationwide bus plan and introduce a Government funded discount card for Young People, encouraging a modal shift towards public transport use. We would also properly fund councils so they can choose how they run their own services, allowing them to close this funding gap the Tories have created."

Source LGA Lib Dems - February 13, 2019

Buses in crisis, Campaign for Better Transport 2018 Analysis of the funding gap for the concessionary bus fare scheme was undertaken for the LGA by Paul Woods, Interim Chief Finance Officer at North East Combined Authority.


Lib dems Demand Better (Lib Dems)