London’s taxpayers could have to plug a £50m gap in the funding available for concessionary fares according to London Councils, the body which represents the capital’s local authorities.
Under a three year deal announced in 2008, the Government undertook to provide London with around £55 million a year towards the costs of providing free off peak bus travel for disabled and older people anywhere in England.
The body says following discussions with Whitehall officials on the scheme’s future funding it is concerned Ministers may be considering reducing the funding the capital will receive in 2010/11 by up to £50 million. London Councils has warned that covering any possible shortfall could see average council tax bills increase by £18 or leave boroughs having to make “painful decisions” over the levels of services.
Chairman of London Councils, Councillor Merrick Cockell, said: “”Losing this promised funding next year will leave a massive gap in council budgets which will need to be covered somehow. Boroughs are very clear in their determination that Londoners should not be short changed and that the original deal should hold in order that council tax and service levels are not adversely affected.”
The organisation has written to Transport secretary Lord Adonis expressing its fears.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport told MayorWatch: “We’re confident there is enough money in the system in total and funding already takes account of likely demand in visitor hotspots such as coastal towns, urban centres and popular tourist destinations. However we recognise that some councils have concerns.”
“That is why we are consulting on the administration of the scheme and also looking at options on whether to distribute the special grant in a different way to ensure the funding is fairly distributed across the country. However we can not provide further details at this stage as work is still ongoing. We will provide further information shortly.”