Fears for bus services in Devon

Devon County Council join national campaign calling for fair funding for concessionary bus schemes.

Devon County Council say rural bus services could be put at risk as a result of proposed Government cuts and has joined a national campaign calling for a fair funding settlement for the concessionary bus scheme.

The issue of rural buses is being debated today by MPs at Westminster and the county council has lent its support to the Fair Fares campaign, which was launched by Norfolk County Council.

Devon County Council, which has been left with a �5 million shortfall from the scheme, is urging the Government to rethink the proposal to reduce grants to bus operators next year.

Councillors are warning that rural bus services could be put at further risk by the Government’s proposed spending cuts.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: “We’re lending our full backing to this campaign and we’re pleased that MPs are debating this issue.

“We have faced additional pressure on all of our services since responsibility for the free national bus pass fell to the County Council in April.

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“While Devon is fully supportive of the concessionary bus scheme, Government funding left us with a massive shortfall, forcing additional pressure on all services supported by the county council.

“Rural authorities like Devon and Norfolk are suffering the most, but Councils right across the country are facing the same difficulties in funding this scheme.

“During last year’s cuts to public transport every effort was made by Devon to minimise the effect on the travelling public.

“Our approach has been to end the subsidy to school services for pupils not entitled to transport and to ensure that the last remaining service is not removed from communities.

“Any further Government cuts would be more problematic and would have a much bigger impact on bus services.”

The council is concerned that the Government’s proposed 20 per cent reduction in the bus service operators grant from April 2012 will increase bus operating costs by 1.5% to 2 per cent, adding to pressures on the costs of both commercial and supported bus services.

The council says this is likely to result in a further reduction of bus services and if passed on as a fare increase, fares would have to rise by perhaps 5 per cent to compensate.

It says Devon is already seen to be among the highest in the country, and further increases would make the situation worse.