Council listens to the public on community travel changes

Proposals to reduce a discretionary subsidy for free bus pass holders using community transport have been changed following a public consultation, Somerset County Council said today.

Following residents’ feedback, the Council has decided to scrap a proposed drop in its 50 per cent discretionary subsidy for free bus pass users who use community transport, by looking to its reserves. It had been proposed that the subsidy would fall to 25 per cent.

The decision to revisit the proposals means that what was a £110,000 saving is now £30,000.

Other proposed changes to the Council’s discretionary policy for concessionary bus pass holders will still be put to Cabinet vote on Monday 8 February 2016, and, if approved, to Full Council later in February.

There is increasing, on-going pressure on the Council’s budget due to dramatic reductions in Central Government funding and heightened demand for its core, vital services. The review of the discretionary Bus Pass Policy is part of the Council’s efforts to find efficiencies and savings to help it bridge its funding gap.

Cllr David Fothergill, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “This was always a very difficult decision to consider but when our funding has been so sharply cut, difficult decisions are the only ones left to take.

“We’ve listened long and hard to residents’ feedback to these proposals and we have heard loud and clear just how important this subsidy is, particularly in rural areas. We are therefore going to meet the £80,000 saving from reserves, which in itself a tough decision when our general reserves – the reserves we have some control over – are at the minimum recommended level.

“Balancing this year’s budget has been incredibly hard, but I am glad we have been able to respond to the public concern on this subject.

“I would like to extend my huge thanks again to everyone who took the time to share their views with us.”

If the revised changes are agreed, bus pass holders would no longer be able to travel for free between 9am and 9.30am on public and community transport services, including car schemes. The Council would also no longer offer free companion travel.

To view the agenda for the next Cabinet meeting, visit http://www1.somerset.gov.uk/council/board3d/2016%20February%208%20Agenda.pdf