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Bus Services: Concessions

Volume 474: debated on Monday 31 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which (a) local authorities, (b) local transport authorities and (c) passenger transport executives have made representations to her Department on the national concessionary bus fares scheme in the last 12 months. (195643)

[holding answer 25 March 2008]: The Department for Transport has received representations on the new England-wide statutory minimum concession to be introduced on 1 April from all tiers of local government, including the Local Government Association, London Councils, Transport for London and the Passenger Transport Executive Group, as well as individual authorities.

Over 200 responses were received to the Department's consultation last autumn on the formula distribution for the special grant for the new England-wide concession from 1 April. A list of those who responded was included in the Department's Consultation Response Document: Local Authority special grant funding for the 2008 national bus concession in England, available on its website.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether local authorities will receive changes to their special grant for concessionary bus fares following representations made since the publication of the draft funding settlement; and if she will make a statement. (196273)

[holding answer 25 March 2008]: The Local Government Finance Special Grant Report (No. 129) was laid before the House on 19 February 2008 and approved following a parliamentary debate on 25 March. The grant distribution reflects the likely burden of cost and is designed to direct funding towards visitor "hotspots" such as coastal towns, urban areas and others likely to experience an increase in concessionary bus journeys as a result of the new England-wide concession from 1 April.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the cost was of her Department’s recent advertising campaign on the change in rules for the national concessionary bus fare scheme. (196826)

The total communications budget for our concessionary fares publicity campaign is £1.3 million, of which media spend on advertising is £809,600 covering press, magazine and outdoor poster advertising.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the reasons were for giving the responsibility for and finance of national concessionary bus fare schemes to district councils; and whether she plans to alter this arrangement. (196996)

[holding answer 27 March 2008]: District councils have been responsible for the statutory concessionary travel scheme since its introduction in 2000. This is consistent with their historic role in licensing bus services prior to deregulation, and their work in other areas such as taxi licensing.

The Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007 contains powers allowing Ministers, subject to future consultation and parliamentary scrutiny, to make secondary legislation which would transfer concessionary travel responsibilities from lower tier (district councils) to higher tier authorities (county councils). It would not have been prudent to make such a radical change less than a year before the introduction of the new England-wide statutory minimum concession from 1 April, particularly when those with existing responsibility for concessionary travel were in the process of issuing over six million new passes to a tight timetable.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will make an estimate of the annual cost of providing a free bus pass for pensioners which could be used for travel across local authority boundaries on a national basis. (197531)

Our assessment of the likely cost impact of the new England-wide concession is based on generous assumptions about pass take-up, fares and increased patronage. On this basis, for 2008-09 we have allocated an additional £212 million (rising to £217 million and £223 million in the following years) to travel concession authorities in England from 1 April, enough to fund around an extra 200 million bus journeys in local authorities across England.

Our current focus remains on ensuring the successful introduction of the new England-wide concession on 1 April and at this stage we have made no detailed assessment of the cost of introducing mutual recognition of concessionary bus passes between Scotland, Wales and England.