Government disagrees with bus pass review
UK Government has disagreed with a recommendation from the Transport Select Committee to review how concessionary bus passes are financed.
In its ‘Bus services in England outside London’ report in May, the Select Committee recommends the Government reviews how it finances concessionary bus passes, and the guidance to local authorities on reimbursement of bus operators, with a view to meeting the principle of both local authorities and bus operators being “no better and no worse off.’
As a priority, it stated the Government should re-baseline the reimbursement rates on ticket prices for 2017/18 prices; and should continue to re-baseline fares every four years so that the principle of “no better and no worse off” is maintained and the reimbursement rate remains broadly in line with current fares.
However, the Government disagrees with this suggestion. It states that local authorities use funding provided by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to meet the costs of the statutory English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS). Its response to the Committee’s report said: “This funding is not ringfenced towards any one use and gives local authorities freedom and flexibility to decide how to best use their funding to provide local services.”
The Government says the DfT publishes reimbursement guidance to assist local authorities to achieve more accurate and efficient reimbursement arrangements in order to meet the principle of bus operators being “no better off and no worse off”. It states reimbursement arrangements are a matter for negotiation each year between local authorities and bus operators. The Reimbursement Calculator allows users to input local values instead of using the default historic values, where available.
The Government’s statement said: “Where operators dispute the reimbursement offered by local authorities, operators may appeal to the Secretary of State for a redetermination of the reimbursement rate. Over time the number of appeals upheld has decreased, so that in the most recent year reported – 2017/18 – there were none at all. We think the system has sufficient flexibility and its re-determination is not a priority at present.”
The Government also disagreed with the Select Committee’s suggestion that it should define socially necessary services by the end of 2019. The Government cited the Transport Act 1985, which states it is for individual local authorities to determine what local bus services that are not provided on a commercial basis are deemed socially necessary.
The majority of the Select Committee’s recommendations were agreed on or partly agreed on by the Government. See the full Government response at: https://bit.ly/35Rwljz