Devon’s Fair Fares campaign heads for Downing Street

bus

Posted on: 20 February 2012

The national campaign for Fair Fares on the buses travels to 10 Downing Street tomorrow when Devon County Council leader John Hart will join other council chiefs in lobbying the Government.

Devon was an early backer of the campaign – launched by Norfolk County Council – for fair compensation for operating the national concessionary fares scheme.

Devon has been left with a £5 million shortfall on the scheme – the difference between what it costs to operate and the grant the county receives from the Government.

A national petition will be delivered to 10 Downing Street at 3pm on Tuesday February 21 along with a formal request for a special grant to cover the unfunded costs.

The funding shortfall forces authorities to fill the gap from their own resources, putting pressure on other vital services.

Devon is one of the biggest losers along with Norfolk County Council which has a £4.5 million shortfall.

The handing over of the petition at No 10 will be supported by Norfolk’s Cabinet member for planning and transportation, Graham Plant, and Sophie Allain of the national Campaign for Better Transport.

John Hart said: “We will make it clear that while Devon people strongly support concessionary travel, they don’t think it’s fair that the county should be having to find ways of meeting a £5 million shortfall in what is supposed to be a nationally funded scheme.

“Our representations have been echoed by authorities across the country and this is an issue that won’t go away.

“We are also very worried about the Government’s plans to reduce grants to bus operators this year.

“Our new county council budget for 2012/13 does not call for any reduction at all in our subsidy to bus services.

“But we feel if the reduction in the Government’s grant to operators goes ahead then services in Devon are going to be at further threat.

“I believe it is vitally important that we continue to lobby the Government vigorously on this issue and that we band with other rural authorities to present a united front where we can.”

Under the Government’s concessionary bus scheme, eligible older and disabled people are entitled to free off-peak travel.

In the current financial year the scheme is costing Devon £12 million to operate.

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