Concessionary Fare bus scheme could cost St Edmundsbury Council Tax payers £375,000 - Ruffley puts pressure on the Government to meet the costs

Friday, 28 December, 2007

David Ruffley MP has today spoken of his concern at the cost of the new concessionary bus fares scheme to taxpayers in St Edmundsbury.

The confessionary fares scheme provides free bus travel for the over-60s with the cost being me by the local authority where the passenger commences their journey.

This Government initiative, which St Edmundsbury Borough Council has no option but to implement, is partly funded by grants but this does not cover the whole cost of the scheme.

In 2007/08 the scheme is currently budgeted to cost £669,000 but the Government grant was only £428,000. The potential cost of the scheme in this financial year is as high as £803,000. This means St Edmundsbury Council Taxpayers could have to fund as much as £375,000 towards the scheme- the equivalent of £10.10 on every Band D Council Tax bill.

David said:

'The concessionary bus fares scheme has been fantastically successful and provides a brilliant service for elderly people in our community. However, as with so many of these Government initiatives the pen pushers in Whitehall have failed to do their sums properly.

'The Government grant towards the scheme in 2007/08 was £428,000 but this has left St Edmundsbury Borough Council picking up a bill of between £241,000 and £375,000. This is the equivalent of as much as a £10.10 increase in every Band D Council Tax payer's bill.

'Next year the cost of the scheme could be as much as £1.147 million but the Government grant is unlikely to be more than £700,000.

'The Government either needs to take responsibility for this scheme itself or fund it properly. At the moment they are insisting local councils adopt the scheme, while taking all the credit themselves, but letting local councillors take the flak when Council Tax bills hit the doormat.

'I will be raising this matter with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears MP, and insisting that she either step up and take responsibility for this scheme or cough up the money so that taxpayers in St Edmundsbury don't have to.'