EDDC: Funding fears over changes to Government support grants

Proposed options could leave council out of pocket when responsibility for the bus pass scheme reverts to Devon County Council next year.

EAST Devon District Council could see its income reduced by as much as �737,000 when Devon County Council takes back control of concessionary travel next year.

Four suggestions for re-adjusting Formula Grant Support to authorities that will no longer deal with the bus pass scheme have been put forward by the Government - but not one is likely to win the support of local councillors.

The proposals have gone out for consultation just months before the management of the scheme is passed back to Devon County Council.

The estimated cost of concessionary travel in East Devon during the current financial year is �1.663m. A specific grant for the scheme will be �603,000, with a further �1.060m provided through the formula grant.

However, the amount deducted from the formula grant from April next year, to reflect the change in management of concessionary travel, could be more than that currently given for the scheme - leaving the district council out of pocket.

District council officers are so concerned that they are suggesting a briefing note be prepared for East Devon’s MPs.

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“We are acutely aware of the costs involved, but we are still uncertain how much we will lose out,” the council’s leader, Sara Randall Johnson, told a meeting of the Executive Board last week.

“We shall suffer yet again,” said Councillor Jill Elson, referring to the system of local government funding. “The whole thing should be scrapped, thrown away and started again.

“Councils like this suffer, because we do not have high levels of deprivation, but we do have high numbers of tourists - and that is not properly reflected in the support grant.”

Councillor Randall Johnson said: “It is very difficult for us to explain to the public how we are funded, because there is a lack of transparency.”

Councillor Andrew Moulding, portfolio holder for resources, said the bus pass scheme is very popular, but was never properly funded by central government.

He said the previous government had introduced it for the right reasons but at the wrong cost levels.