Free bus pass for OAPs under threat

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Routemaster Bus

Bus services are facing the axe as councils struggle to fund free travel for elderly people.

Government funding for free, off-peak travel for elderly and disabled people has fallen by 39% since 2010, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

It added that councils are being increasingly forced to subsidise this concessionary travel at the cost of other essential services.

The LGA said that Buckinghamshire, Cumbria and Somerset were among county councils cutting back on services due to funding problems.

Peter Box, the LGA's economy and transport board chairman said: "The concessionary fares scheme provides a lifeline for our most vulnerable residents to go shopping, pick up medication, attend doctor appointments or socialise with friends. However, it is now under real threat.

"Years of underfunding of the scheme forces councils to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers' money to subsidise the scheme. This is now impossible with councils having to make savings while struggling to protect vital services like adult social care, protecting children, filling potholes and collecting bins."

He went on: "Councils know how important buses are for their communities and local economies and are desperate to protect them. Instead, many across the country are reluctantly taking difficult decisions to scale back services and review subsidised routes.

"The way the concessionary travel scheme is funded by Whitehall has long been unfit for purpose and has not kept up with growing demand and cost. Unless the Government commits to fully funding concessionary fares, elderly and disabled people will be left stranded with a free bus pass in one hand but no local buses to travel on in the other."

Sustainable transport organisation Sustrans said: "With one in four households in England without a car (more than five million homes in total) it is essential that we see more investment into affordable alternatives, including buses.

"Young people, jobseekers and older people all need affordable and reliable bus services to access education, employment, leisure facilities and other services."

Top 10 council deficits

Top 10 council deficits