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MP celebrates victory after securing £1.3M handout for city

November 5, 2009 12:29 PM

howarthCambridge MP David Howarth has secured a £1.3 million handout for the city to pay for concessionary bus fares.

His victory comes after months of fighting to get a fairer deal under the scheme which guarantees free travel for people over 60 and those with disabilities.

But the government's promise of extra cash fails to address completely the £1.9 million shortfall Cambridge City Council must meet on top of the government grant to run the scheme every year.

Mr Howarth said: "This is excellent news. At last, the government has seen sense and awarded this extra money to Cambridge.

"I have always believed this scheme was a good one but the way it was funded was totally flawed. Cambridge was left struggling to pay for tourists and visitors who chose to travel within the city's boundaries while other local authorities had money to spare under the scheme. The government now plans to redress the balance which is very welcome.

"I am disappointed, however, that the government did not decide to address the total shortfall. Cambridge City Council has been left to make up the balance and will struggle to do so."

The news of the government's "revised special grant distribution" came from Transport Minister, Sadiq Khan in a letter to Mr Howarth.

Mr Khan said: "I hope this demonstrates that the government has listened to and taken seriously the concerns of Cambridge."

Cambridge City Council leader, Ian Nimmo-Smith said: "The extra money from the government is welcome news indeed. It will help a great deal in meeting the costs of this scheme which has been the biggest financial burden the council has faced this year.

"But I am extremely disappointed that the government has only resolved part of the problem. The £600,000 balance has to be paid for somehow. We have struggled to meet the cost of this scheme while at the same time protecting services and keeping council tax rises to a minimum."