March 27, 2008 12:00 AM

Cambridge MP David Howarth has raised in the House of Commons the concerns of Cambridge City Council that the government is not funding the new concessionary bus fares scheme fairly.

Mr Howarth commented:

"As a regular bus user in Cambridge myself, I am a great supporter of the concessionary fares scheme, but the government must give the bulk of the money it has set aside for concessionary fares to the councils that will bear the brunt of the costs, not to councils that will not face those costs."

Cambridge City Council estimates that the changes will cost it around £400,000 more than the government has allocated in new grant aid. When added to the government's previous failure to fund other aspects of concessionary fares, this brings the annual deficit to more than £650,000.

Mr Howarth pointed out to Transport Minister Rosie Winterton that the government was assuming that bus journeys cost on average £1 a journey, whereas fares in Cambridge are much higher, and that under the new arrangements the City Council, rather than South Cambridgeshire District Council, will be paying for the return journeys of those who come into the city from the surrounding villages.

Mr Howarth added:

"In the government's world, these mistakes in the way the money is handed out are very small, but for the Council they are very substantial sums, equivalent to the money being raised by this year's increase in the City's element of the council tax. The government should revise the way it calculates these grants."


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