Legal threat over £390k “slap in the face” bus cut

South Gloucestershire Council’s Conservative transport chief has revealed that the authority is considering legal action after Ministers confirmed a larger than expected cut to the district’s bus budget.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed its intention to cut funding for free over 60s bus travel by £390K from April 1st.

This is £50k more than the £340k funding cut that had been proposed as part of plans announced by the Department for Transport (DfT) at the end of 2009 to change the distribution of funding for the national concessionary travel scheme for the 2010/11 financial year.

At £390k, it 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 3 year funding settlement that was designed to provide certainty for councils.

The national concessionary travel scheme, which provides free off-peak 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 £390k cut in central funding will take the annual shortfall up to nearly £1.5m.

Cllr Brian Allinson, South Gloucestershire’s Conservative transport chief, said:

“What the Government has done is absolutely outrageous.

We provided evidence to Ministers that demonstrated that their original £340K reduction was not justified and that they should stick with what they promised us, but they have responded with an even larger cut.

If this was going towards paying off the eye-watering national debt that Labour Ministers have wracked up, then residents might have understood.

But it is simply being taken from South Gloucestershire and given to other local authorities.

This is a £390K slap in the face and because Ministers have ripped up a 3 year funding deal in its third year, South Gloucestershire’s residents now have to subsidise this supposedly government-funded scheme to the tune of £1.5m a year from their council tax.

He added:

Although we have found a way to fill nearly all of this government-imposed funding black hole thanks to our ongoing determination to free up resources from driving out waste and inefficiency, we are not taking this lying down.

We are again calling on Ministers to reveal the data and formula that they have based this £390k cut on, including copies of all working papers and notes of meetings.

We are considering all the options available to us, including a formal legal challenge by means of a Judicial Review.

But we hope this can be avoided if Ministers lift their veil of secrecy over this shadowy process.”

Source: Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council

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