Plans to cut 50 per cent subsidy for bus pass users using community transport in a bid to save £250,000 by Cambridgeshire County Council

PUBLISHED: 15:04 03 October 2018

FACT transport in the March depot. Picture: SUBMITTED

FACT transport in the March depot. Picture: SUBMITTED

Archant

Nearly two years after the county council pulled back from scrapping a 50 per cent subsidy for bus pass users using community transport – after a survey was rigged - it will try again next week.

Summary of some of the comments received by Cambridgeshire County Council in 2016 and discarded as 'duplicates' in their community transport survey.Summary of some of the comments received by Cambridgeshire County Council in 2016 and discarded as 'duplicates' in their community transport survey.

A report to the economy and environment committee on Tuesday will call for discretionary concessions and subsidies to be removed in a bid to save £250,000.

The council says the concessions were introduced “to make transport available to residents who might otherwise struggle to access affordable transport”.

These included 15p per mile for users of community car schemes, 50 per cent of the cost of dial-a-ride, free travel for blind and partially sighted bus pass holders before 9.30am and subsidised taxis in parts of South Cambs.

“The proposal is to remove these discretionary concessions and subsidies in order to improve the council’s ability to safeguard statutory services,” says the report.

The council was keen to ensure it could “effectively meet our duties” under the care act and national concessionary bus travel scheme.

The latest business planning proposals for 2019 follows the decision by the council in 2016 to abandon a reduction in subsidies after community transport users were surveyed.

However this newspaper revealed that community transport operator FACT – since widely criticised by an independent inquiry – got staff to fill in responses on behalf of its members.

We demonstrated that impact statements made by ‘users’ were in many instances fictitious but by the time this was revealed the council had already abandoned its plan to withdraw subsidies that year.

Tuesday’s report talks of the need by the council to focus on a range of “more fundamental changes to the way we work”.

This, says the report, will include bringing in new sources of income to fund public services without raising taxes significantly “and to take a more business-like approach to the way we do things in the council”.

The council believes that by establishing “a continual flow of new proposals into the change programme” it can create better forward planning and outcomes.

Councillors will be told that to balance next year’s budget savings or additional income of £33 million is required and across the full five years of the business plan £62 million will be needed.

A “significant level of savings or income” is still required to balance next year’s budget.

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