Bus scheme defended

PUBLISHED: 11:43 12 May 2006 | UPDATED: 21:52 28 May 2010

GOVERNMENT documents which show Fenland District Council had nearly £700,000 given to them to pay for concessionary bus travel for the over 60s are misleading, says the council s finance chief. Mat Taylor, the council s director of finance, said that alt

GOVERNMENT documents which show Fenland District Council had nearly £700,000 given to them to pay for concessionary bus travel for the over 60s are misleading, says the council's finance chief.

Mat Taylor, the council's director of finance, said that although the figure of £693,000 has been given out by the Government, it is a notional figure and fails to reflect the reality of running the scheme.

He said the council would be spending about £260,000 on a district-wide scheme, exactly in accordance with Government requirements.

Although £693,000 was an accurate figure, it was part of the total package of money given by the Government to Fenland as part of its annual revenue support grant. It was not ring fenced for concessionary bus travel, and, said Mr Taylor, if the Government had wanted to know how much Fenland needed to operate the scheme it could have easily worked it out.

He was responding to criticism that the new district-wide scheme fails to offer pensioners the opportunity to travel freely across other districts in the county.

"We would happily consider spending the extra needed to finance a county-wide scheme," he said. "Our estimate that the cost to Fenland could be as little as £40,000 but in other districts it could be up to 10 times as much. And the truth is these other district councils simply don't have that sort of resource."

Mr Taylor said a go-it-alone stance for Fenland was impractical and "you simply couldn't have a free scheme just for Fenland".

Although some counties had managed to get local councils together to enact a county-wide scheme, it had not been possible in Cambridgeshire because of the nature of the area.

"Cambridgeshire is different. For a start you have to cross districts to get to a hospital, for example, or a major shopping town. Many counties don't have this problem," he said.

But he promised Fenland would continue to talk to other districts about improving the current scheme, although in two years' time the Government plans to scrap it and then introduce a county-wide scheme.

"If there were to be a county-wide scheme sooner, and other councils want to meet to discuss it, then Fenland would certainly want to be part of that," added Mr Taylor.

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