Concessionary Changes

Each of Gloucestershire’s districts is reported as in financial trouble owing to the April 2008 national free concessionary travel scheme.

We covered this in July, June and also May.

And, each district appears to deal with this issue separately. There are now calls for a county-wide scheme, administered by transport co-ordinators at Gloucestershire County Council.

Ian Manning, Stagecoach West managing director, welcomed the possibility but warned, “The fact remains that the government has to fund free travel for pensioners adequately, which it’s not currently doing.” He went on to call the reimbursement arrangements a “shambles”.

Meanwhile, on 13 November, The Citizen published the deficits resulting from free concessionary travel. Stroud’s projected shortfall was £826,000. This follows expenditure on the scheme of £1.06m and a government grant of £237,ooo. Outspoken Manning dubbed the Gloucestershire schemes as “one of the worst payers in the country”, further stating that Stagecoach was being “chronically underpaid” for its obligation to carry pensioners for free.

The other shortfalls are:

Gloucester City: spends £1.8m, grant £5076,00. Shortfall £1.3m.

Cheltenham Borough: £1.12m, grant £525,000. Shortfall £600,000.

Tewskesbury Borough: spends £878,000, grant £538,000. Shortfall £340,000.

Cotswold District: spends £460,000, grant £384,00. Shortfall £176,000.

Forest of Dean wouldn’t “necessarily” spend over the grant of £169,000 (having spent £135,000 in the first half of the financial year!).

Earlier in the year, in March, councillors accused Stagecoach of the “tactics of Dick Turpin” as they pledged not to be “railroaded” by Stagecoach in the increasingly bitter dispute. Stagecoach meanwhile claimed it was owed £400,000. This was in spite of an adjudication that identified an underpayment to Stagecoach of over £447,000 in Gloucestershire.

A Stroud council spokesman said, “We’re sure that everyone would agree that giving nearly half a million pounds to Stagecoach — when they say they want it — rather than ensuring that they are paid the correct amount at the correct time would not be a responsible approach. We as a district council already subsidise bus travel to the tune of £800,000.”

Except that free travel reimbursements aren’t subsidies.

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