Free bus fares scheme leaves city £900,000 out of pocket

December 17, 2010 11:52 AM
Cllr Sian Reid

Sian Reid

Cambridge City Council Leader, Sian Reid is calling on the government to act as a matter of urgency after taxpayers were left facing a £900,000 bill for the concessionary bus fares scheme.

The figure has been calculated taking into account government handouts the council never received.

MP Julian Huppert is also challenging the settlement with a Commons' question asking what analysis the government has undertaken on the scheme's impact on Cambridge.

Cambridge City Council's government grant has been cut by almost £1.5 million to claim back some of the money paid out this year to support the concessionary fares scheme which gives people over 60 and the disabled free bus travel.

The council received an extra payment of £541,520 over its original grant to help pay for the scheme for 2010/11; but this year's grant has been calculated on the basis that it received £1,434,000, £900,000 more than it actually did.

Councillor Reid said: "Our overall spending power this year has been cut by almost 11.5 per cent against a government promise that no council will face more than an 8.9 per cent reduction.

"We have supported the concessionary fares scheme which is worthwhile; but it has crippled our finances. I am hoping that the government will review its calculations for Cambridge and realise how much of an impact this scheme is having. After all the funding issues we have had with this scheme we expected to be out of pocket from next April, but not by this massive amount."

Cllr Reid has called on Local Government Secretary, Bob Neill to look into the matter urgently.

Julian has raised his oral question on the issue with Mr Neill and an answer is expected on January 20.

He said: "The government must give the financial support needed to make this scheme work without leaving councils out of pocket.

"It is clear that the calculations are wrong in this case. The city council has been penalised for receiving more in grant aid than is actually the case and I hope it will be rectified quickly."

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