“Fair deal’ bus pass plea
‘UNDER pressure’ Devon transport chiefs have urged the government to plug a �5 million funding gap caused by changes to the concessionary bus travel scheme.
Devon transport chiefs have urged the government to plug a �5 million funding gap caused by changes to the concessionary bus travel scheme.
Stuart Hughes met with Transport Minister Norman Baker last Friday to discuss the shortfall and its knock on effects, which Devon County Council (DCC) says is putting additional pressure on its already stretched budget.
Councillor Hughes also discussed the �1.35 million DCC is proposing to cut from its �7.76million public transport budget in response to reduced government funding.
Due to changes in legislation, the district councils’ responsibility for the pass ends on March 31, with DCC taking over direct responsibility for concessionary bus travel within its area.
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Devon has been given �7million of government funding to operate the scheme, but it is expected to cost them around �12.35million to run.
Cllr Hughes, DCC cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: “It’s disappointing that we have effectively been short-changed, and, by being handed the concessionary travel scheme, we’re facing a double whammy.
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“The shortfall in funding we’re receiving for the concessionary bus pass has piled extra pressure on our services, and that is on top of the cuts that we have to make as a result of reduced Government funding.”
Mr Hughes added Transport Minister Mr Baker pledged to look into the funding shortfall DCC faces over the concessionary scheme.
It was agreed during discussions Department for Transport officials would monitor the situation and would keep in touch with DCC on the issue.
The Minister also invited the authority to write to him with further evidence of the funding gap so that he could investigate further.
Mr Hughes, added: “We had a detailed discussion with Norman Baker and it was good to receive some positive feedback from him. It was encouraging to hear him say he would investigate our concerns about the impact that funding reductions are having on bus services in rural areas.”
Residents who already have a national bus pass do not need to register with DCC unless their circumstances have changed. New applicants can contact the council on (01392) 383688.