Norfolk’s fight for bus fare cash to continue

Council leaders have insisted the battle to get Norfolk more money to cover the cost of concessionary bus fares is not over, despite the government not allocating extra cash in its annual grant to County Hall.

Norfolk County Council has a �4.5m gap between what it costs to reimburse bus companies for ferrying about people entitled to free bus travel and the money the government gives to cover that.

That led to the launch of a Fair Fares campaign, calling for that gap to be plugged. The campaign has been backed by more than 18,500 people and councils across the country.

But, at a cabinet meeting today, councillors will hear the government has not given extra cash through the formula grant - a sum of money councils get, based on what they are assessed as needing to spend on services.

Norfolk's provisional formula grant settlement for 2012/13 is for �234.6m, but a report, which will come before councillors, states: 'There has been no change in the formula grant distribution as a result of our campaign on concessionary bus fares.' However, Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council, said that did not mean the campaign had failed.


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He said: 'We don't see this as a refusal. In the past, what has happened where more money has been given, is that it has come in the form of one-off payments, rather than sort it out as part of the formula grant.

'We are maintaining the pressure. Eric Pickles [communities secretary] said it was a dog's breakfast and it is, so we are continuing to make the case.'

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Under the government's scheme, eligible older and disabled people are entitled to free off-peak travel, with about 180,000 pass-holders in Norfolk.

The county council, which took over responsibility for administering concessionary bus travel in April last year, had ditched an extra hour offered to pass-holders between 8.30am and 9.30am.

At today's meeting, the council's cabinet will look at whether it could restore that hour for blind people who have bus passes and for companions of disabled people.

• What are you views on free bus travel? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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