4:08pm Friday 21st March 2014
By Kate Wilson
THE way people in Gloucestershire use concessionary bus passes is to be reviewed.
Gloucestershire County Council recently renegotiated a concessionary fare agreement with Stagecoach.
The arrangement allows elderly people, or people with a physical or learning disability, to travel for free on Stagecoach buses after 9.30am.
The same arrangement has been in place since the council took over responsibility for the scheme in 2011.
The budget for concessionary passes comes from central government, which set the 9.30am start rule when the scheme was launched in 2006.
The council already has to find more than £1 million per year to subside the scheme as the government money isn’t enough to cover the actual cost so any additional costs would also have to be paid for by the council.
However at a full council meeting on Wednesday it was unanimously decided to review this arrangement.
Members were told that time restraints had posed problems for some people when attending medical appointments or getting into work on time so the council has resolved to look into the issues that are affecting the elderly and disabled.
Cllr Will Windsor Clive, cabinet member responsible for concessionary bus fares, said: “As always we are happy to review this rule, which was imposed in 2006 by government, to see if we can improve the service for users.
"Councillors will have to understand the possible cost implications and and make a choice as to how we spend your money.”
Leader of the Labour party, Lesley Williams, said: “It is good news that councillors have agreed to review the rule that prevents older people and people with disabilities from using their concessionary travel pass before 9.30am in the morning.
“This recognises that the 9.30am rule does cause older people and people with disabilities considerable inconvenience.
"I’m delighted we are now going to look at this issue and explore ways to improve the present situation.”
Liberal Democrat councillor, Colin Hay, said: “The use of concessionary bus passes before 9.30am is a complicated issue which had we simply agreed to extend it locally to a 8.30am start could have had far reaching economic consequences for the county council.
“However, it was good to air particular difficulties found by people using their concessionary bus pass.
"The county council is now committed to looking at those issues including talking to health partners about when appointments are made so that the elderly and disabled will be able to get to those appointments using their concessionary passes.”
UKIP councillor, Cllr Richard Leppington, said: “We support this motion however are aware of the cost implications it may have on other services the county council offer.
“We’ve suggested an option that’s investigated to initially focus on those with disabilities, and allowing them priority for early morning transport.”
Independent councillor, Cllr David Prince, said: “We agree with the motion, but think that further investigation will need to be done to ensure we don’t jeopardise other services.”
© Copyright 2001-2015 Newsquest Media Group