Cornwall Council’s Cabinet has stepped back from the brink of disaster with a massive change of heart in the proposals to cut the funding for the Concessionary Fare program. The previous proposals were to cut the funding from the council to the bus operators for each journey undertaken. This was to be reduced from 73.5% of the cost to 50% of the cost of the journey. This would have had a huge impact on certain bus routes, with many disappearing.
Currently, there are 147 local bus routes in Cornwall. 52 of them operate commercially, with no support from the council. 31 of these routes operate because of a 100% subsidy from the council, and 64 operate with a part subsidy. It would have been the 95 routes that would have been affected with any cut in funding. That would cause massive concern to the 126,000 pass holders in Cornwall.
At today’s Cabinet (webcast) it was decided £1.2m would be approved for both 2012/13 and 2013/14 financial year to continue the current service. This met with widespread support from both Cabinet members and other Councillors present. It is only two years because the re-tendering process for most routes is planned to take place in 2014.
Also in todays recommendations a letter would be sent to the Secretary of State asking for a change to the Concessionary Fares scheme. The letter would include a request for Cornwall to be a ‘pilot’ area for a flat rate charge to be introduced per journey. The reason for this idea is because of budget pressures and cuts in funding from Government have made the scheme very expensive. Currently it is against the law to charge for any journey under the scheme.
This idea of a flat rate charge is a very interesting one, as from the public feedback, and from people I have spoken to agree a flat rate could be charged. However, it is the amount of that charge which will be more relevant to any support for it. It has been banded around a 50p charge could be implemented, but this is not a confirmed charge.
A danger though, with any additional charge there will be those who cannot afford that charge. One of the previous Governments good ideas was to introduce this scheme, as it has without doubt, helped people to feel less isolated. The sting in the tail is that no matter how good a scheme is, someone still has to pay for it.
Still the Cabinet, with pressure from Councillors, bus operators and the public, have made the right decision today. So, well done!