Residents reminded of bus cuts consultation deadline

The ConservativesSouth Gloucestershire Council’s Conservative transport chief is reminding residents that they have seven days to respond to Government plans to slash the district’s bus budget by £340,000.

The funding cut is proposed as part of plans announced recently by the Department for Transport (DfT) to change the distribution of funding for the national concessionary travel scheme for the 2010/11 financial year. At £340k, this is the biggest loss for any council outside London.

This unexpected cut is despite the fact that 2010/11 will be the third year of a supposedly three year funding settlement that was designed to provide certainty for councils.

The national concessionary travel scheme, which provides free bus travel for older residents, should be government-funded, however South Gloucestershire Council already has to use £1.1m of local money to support the scheme.

A further £340k cut in central funding would take the annual shortfall up to nearly £1.5m.

The Government has been criticised for failing to publicly reveal the methodology that has been used to arrive at the £340K figure.

Cllr Brian Allinson, South Gloucestershire’s Conservative transport chief, is encouraging residents to respond to the consultation, saying:

“Despite our attempts, the Government has still not been able to properly explain why our district has been picked out for especially harsh treatment and we are continuing to press the Government to publicly reveal the formula and data they have used to arrive at their funding cut.

Not only are we already one of the lowest funded councils of our kind in the country, but South Gloucestershire council tax payers are already forking out £1.1m to support what is supposed to be a nationally-funded scheme.

Ministers are simply planning to rob Peter again to pay more to Paul.”

He added:

“I know it is a big ask, but if residents are able to find a spare moment over the busy Christmas and New Year period, then I would encourage them to respond to the DfT consultation before it formally closes on 30 December, so we can demonstrate the strength of local feeling there is on this important issue.

Personal responses from individual residents have a powerful role to play in complementing and strengthening the council’s own robust response that opposes the Government’s plans.”

The DfT consultation closes on 30 December 2009 and consultation response forms can be downloaded from the DfT website.

Source: Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council

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