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Howarth victory on concessionary bus fares imminent

May 11, 2009 10:48 AM

David HowarthA dramatic climb-down by the government on concessionary bus fares looks imminent after months of fighting by Cambridge MP David Howarth.

Labour looks set to bow to pressure over the way funding for the scheme is distributed, bringing in significant changes from next April.

If the move goes ahead it will mean Cambridge will get an extra £1 million from the government, plugging the hole left in its budget from paying for the scheme.

Mr Howarth said: "This would be a major victory and very welcome news for the people of Cambridge who have been picking up two thirds of the bill for this scheme.

"I am a great supporter of the concessionary fares scheme but not when it leaves small district councils out of pocket simply because the government got its sums wrong.

"Cambridge City Council has faced financial difficulties this year but by far its biggest problem has been of the government's making.

"Now it would appear common sense has prevailed; although I am extremely disappointed that the changes will not be put in place until April next year."

The news that the government was set to change the funding formula next year came during a meeting between Mr Howarth and Paul Clark, Under Secretary of State for Transport.

Mr Clark also indicated that the concessionary fares scheme would become the responsibility of Cambridgeshire County Council in 2011.

In the past, he has consistently maintained that he was "proud of the government's record on concessionary travel" and that the funding was "distributed using a formula that reflects areas of likely demand."

Cambridge City Council leader, Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smith said: ""While we totally support the concessionary fares scheme, the cost has crippled our finances.

"This is welcome news that the funding will be more fairly distributed which means that we can continue to provide this worthwhile and much-needed service without being out of pocket."