Councils call for concessionary fares funding after 12% bus service cuts

The government should fund the Concessionary Fares Scheme to ease the financial pressures on bus services, which councils have been forced to cut by 12% in the past year, the LGA has said.

The latest annual figures from the Department for Transport show that mileage for all council-supported bus services in England, excluding London, fell from 165 to 144 million miles between 2014-15 and 2015-16, a drop of 12.3%.

The LGA argued that councils were being forced to divert funding from discretionary subsidised bus services, such as free peak travel, community transport services and reduced fares, in order to fulfil their statutory duty to provide free off-peak fares for pensioners and disabled people.

Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s transport spokesperson, stated: “These new figures show just how much pressure many local bus services are under, with councils forced by a lack of central government funding to cut discretionary services.

“In many cases, this is hitting rural communities hardest, leaving families isolated. This is why it is paramount the government fully funds the Concessionary Fares Scheme in the Autumn Statement.”

Last year, a series of FOIs by PSE found that nearly all public transport executive bodies outside London have had to reduce their funding for subsidised bus services in the last three financial years.

The LGA added that the government should use the Autumn Statement to devolve the £250m bus service operators grant to councils.

The latest figures also show that council-supported bus services in rural areas have reduced by 40%, from 178 to 107 million miles, in the last decade. In urban areas, they have been reduced by just over a quarter – from 51 to 37 million miles.

The House of Lords is currently scrutinising the Bus Services Bill, which is intended to allow councils bus franchising powers similar to those already established in London. The Lords recently introduced an amendment giving the powers to all councils equally, instead of only to combined authorities with an elected mayor.

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