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Campaign claws back £1.2m to plug Norfolk concessionary bus fares funding gap

PUBLISHED: 14:29 12 October 2012 | UPDATED: 14:55 12 October 2012

MP Brandon Lewis, centre, with Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy, right, and cabinet member for planning and transportation Graham Plant, at the launch of the Fair Fares petition to the government for the return of the £4.5m to pay the bus operators for concessionary transport. Picture: Denise Bradley

MP Brandon Lewis, centre, with Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy, right, and cabinet member for planning and transportation Graham Plant, at the launch of the Fair Fares petition to the government for the return of the £4.5m to pay the bus operators for concessionary transport. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant copyright 2011

A campaign to get Norfolk a fairer deal when it comes to who should pick up the bill for concessionary bus fares has led to the county council clawing back £1.2m of a multi-million shortfall.

The Norfolk County Council campaign succeeded in winning a government review of the formula used to allocate funds for the concessionary bus travel scheme.

More than 23,500 people signed the council’s Fair Fares campaign protesting about the unfairness of the county’s £4.5m shortfall in government funding for the scheme.

The shortfall was created because the government does not give the council enough money to fully cover the cost of reimbursing bus companies for travel by concessionary bus pass holders.

Now it has been revealed that the shortfall has been reduced by £1.2m after campaigners including the county council, Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis and Norfolk bus companies, won a review of the funding system from the government.

Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: “Speaking up for Norfolk is a key role for the county council and our Fair Fares campaign certainly help make the government sit up and take notice.

“Any addition to our funds is welcome at a time when we are continuing to fight for a fair deal for our county to protect rural bus services.

“We will need to keep pressing for a fair deal for Norfolk. A concessionary pass is worthless if the bus service has been lost because the council can no longer afford the subsidy.”

The Fair Fares campaign - which was supported by 11 other shire counties including Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire - was named Regional Campaign of the Year at the East Anglia region of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) PRide awards last night.

Bert Bremner, Labour county councillor for University ward in Norwich, said he welcomed the reduction of the gap, but said more needed to be done.

He said: “Well done to Norfolk County Council winning an award for their Fair Fares campaign, which was fully supported by the Labour Team, and gained £1.2m back from the government.

“So they gained £1.2m and a good campaign prize but the people of Norfolk are being denied £3.3m. How are our Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs going to explain that?”

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