Concessionary Travel Funding and Cuts to Services

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2012 National Disabled Members' Conference
6 July 2012

Conference is concerned that changes to the level of grants paid to Local Authorities for Concessionary Travel on buses will lead to more cuts to public services. There were two types of concessionary bus fares. The statutory concession that local authorities must provide is free bus travel for people over 65 and disabled people on Saturday, Sunday and Bank holidays and after 9.30 Monday to Friday. Local authorities can also provide discretionary concessions from their own funds. From April 2008 free local bus travel was extended so disabled people and those over 65 could travel free on local buses anywhere in England.

In June 2010 Earl Attlee set out the government’s official position stating “the right to free bus travel for older and disabled people is enshrined in primary legislation. The Government have no plans to alter this, but are considering what steps might be taken to improve the operation and cost-effectiveness of the scheme.”

The previous Labour Government introduced a special grant separate from the Formula Grant to cover the cost of concessionary travel. It was distributed on the basis of eligible population, bus use, overnight visitors and retail floor space. It reflected the cost to ‘hotspot’ areas, such as coastal towns and urban centres who saw an increase in concessionary bus journeys when the scheme was extended across the whole of England.

Concessionary travel scheme must be cost neutral to bus operators who shouldn’t make a loss or profit. In November 2010 Government published new guidance to local authorities on reimbursing bus operators which they estimate will save between nine and 16 per cent in reimbursement costs. In 2011 they scrapped the special concessionary grant and included funding in the Formula Grant for Local Government. The amount granted is along with other components of the Formula Grant and does not take account of bus usage, eligible population and so on.

There will be no change for bus users or operators but there will be an impact on Councils who fund the service. They still have to fully fund the statutory concession but their grant will be reduced. Estimates suggest this up to £270 million will be cut from council funding meaning more cuts to services or staffing levels.

This conference calls on the National Disabled Members Committee to:

1)Work with Branches, Regions and Local Authorities to gather evidence of the impact of the changes to funding for concessionary travel;

2)Gather evidence of reductions in discretionary concessionary travel schemes; and

3)Use this evidence to lobby government for the reinstatement of concessionary travel funding to previous levels