Bus review promise from prime minister

By Martin Neville

Thursday, February 26, 2009

 

ISLE of Wight Council bosses secured an assurance from Prime Minister Gordon Brown that funding of the concessionary bus fare — which is costing taxpayers millions of pounds — will be reviewed at the end of the current financial year.

Previously, government had indicated the earliest review would be in two years’ time.

At a cabinet meeting, chaired by Mr Brown, in Southampton on Monday, transport secretary Geoff Hoon accepted issues with funding distribution meant some local authorities were adversely affected.

He said a review would look at how the funding could be put on a more equitable basis.

His comments came as the funding of the scheme attracted ridicule after it emerged the Isles of Scilly received funding when it did not even have any bus services.

Referring to the Isle of Wight, Mr Brown stressed popular destinations would have a large take-up of bus usage.

The impact of the concessionary fares scheme, funding for the schools’ reorganisation and support for tourism were all raised at the meeting by Isle of Wight Council leader Cllr David Pugh and chief executive Steve Beynon.

Cllr Pugh sat with schools secretary Ed Balls, who said the treasury would be making an announcement on the future of Building Schools for the Future funding, which would confirm the government’s ongoing commitment to the initiative.

Steve Beynon sat alongside Andy Burnham, the culture secretary, and urged him to exert more government pressure on the banking sector to release funds for short-term loans and overdrafts to support the tourism industry, particularly during the off-peak season so it could invest for future improved provision.

Reporter: martinn@iwcpmail.co.uk

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