Free bus travel `grossly underfunded'

THE nationwide free bus travel scheme for over-60s is chronically underfunded by the Government funding, the Liberal Democrats claimed today.It said its survey of 70 councils across the country, including Lib Dem run Colchester borough, had shown a shortfall of �40 million so far, which might have to be made up by council taxpayers.

Graham Dines

THE nationwide free bus travel scheme for over-60s is chronically underfunded by the Government funding, the Liberal Democrats claimed today.

It said its survey of 70 councils across the country, including Lib Dem run Colchester borough, had shown a shortfall of �40 million so far, which might have to be made up by council taxpayers.

Colchester was facing a deficit of �1,190,000 between Government grants and actual council spending on free travel.


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Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker MP said: “The Government has turned a popular scheme for older people into an implementation disaster. First the choice of local authority boundaries led to confusion and chaos at the borders and now poor funding is leaving local taxpayers picking up the bill.

“With councils across the country looking at making redundancies and cutting services and council taxes rising still further, the cost of paying for (Gordon) Brown's bus fares budget will be intensely unpopular with many residents.

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“This �40 million shortfall could be a drop in the ocean. Council tax payers shouldn't have to pick up yet another bill for the Government's mistakes.”'

Since April 2008, English residents aged 60 or more and eligible disabled people have been entitled to a free annual bus pass giving free off-peak travel on local buses anywhere in England. Before that, those eligible could only travel for free within their local area.

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