Bus trips for older people in Norfolk leave county council at least £3.7m out of pocket
PUBLISHED: 11:19 05 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:29 05 October 2018
Providing concessionary bus travel for older and disabled people across Norfolk is leaving County Hall at least £3.7m out of pocket - and councillors are to demand that the government gives them a better deal.
The concessionary travel scheme, which allows eligible people free bus travel between 9.30am to 11pm on weekdays and all day at weekends, was introduced in 2008.
But, a decade on, and Norfolk County Council, which has to administer the scheme and reimburse travel companies so they are neither better nor worse off, says the funding is not fair.
The government gives the council money to pay for the scheme as part of a grant called the revenue support grant.
But council bosses say that grant been reduced over the years, while it is no longer specified how much of it is for concessionary bus travel reimbursement.
The council says there were 186,493 Norfolk passes as of March this year and because the county has a higher than average number of older people, it has a higher than average spend on concessionary travel.
And, because it also has to reimburse operators for any journey starting in Norfolk, the high numbers of elderly visitors, particularly to the north Norfolk coast, also adds costs.
In 2017/18, more than nine million journeys were made and Norfolk spent £11.6m reimbursing the operators.
But, in a report which will go before the county council’s environment, development and transport committee next week, officers say: “We know that Norfolk does not receive the full amount from central government to cover the cost of the operation.”
They say finding out just how out-of-pocket that leaves the council is difficult to establish, but in 2010/11 the shortfall was at least £3.7m.
The council has previously lobbied the government to request a review. A 24,000 signature petition, put together with other local authorities, was presented to 10 Downing Street in 2012, but no further funds have been received.
On Friday, county councillors will be asked to agree to seek support from the county’s MPs and to lobby for a fairer deal from the government.
Martin Wilby, chairman of the environment, development and transport committee, said: “We want to get support because it is costing us quite a lot. We need something to be done about it.”