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UNFARE' cry in bus pass row

PUBLISHED: 16:06 28 January 2009 | UPDATED: 10:24 23 August 2010

FREE bus pass schemes will leave a £200,000 shortfall in budgets over the next two years, according to the council leader. Mike Snelling, Gravesham Borough Council leader, accused the government of failing to cover the costs of the initiative launched fo

FREE bus pass schemes will leave a £200,000 shortfall in budgets over the next two years, according to the council leader.

Mike Snelling, Gravesham Borough Council leader, accused the government of failing to cover the costs of the initiative launched for the over-60s in April last year.

It is the responsibility of the borough council to reimburse bus companies for carrying concessionary passengers, using money it receives direct from Whitehall.

Mr Snelling said: "This is a classic case of the government agreeing to meet the cost of a service and then not providing enough money, the result being that the cost is passed onto the taxpayer. It's an awful lot of money. It's quite disgraceful that the government promises what is a very good service for the public, which is obviously popular, but then fails to meet the financial obligation of paying for it."

Gravesham Borough Council will receive £274,000 in Whitehall funding this year and £280,000 next year to cover the scheme. According to projected figures calculated by Kent and Medway Travel Schemes travel consultants, the actual cost of the scheme will be £322,900 and £445,766, leaving the council with a shortfall of £48,990 this year and £165,766 next year.

The Department for Transport (DfT) says money for the scheme should be taken out of the formula grant awarded to the council each year for all its services and a special grant which is specifically to meet the cost of the concessionary fares, but the council insists its figures are correct.

A DfT spokesperson said: "The special grant is provided to fund the extension to the concessionary travel scheme. It is provided on top of the formula grant for the existing scheme. On the basis of figures provided by Gravesham, this adequately covers the increase in the council's spend.

"We consulted widely on how to pay this grant to councils and are confident there is sufficient funding in total to cover the England-wide concession.

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