Councils are spending £200m a year subsidising the concessionary bus fares scheme, new analysis has revealed.
The Local Government Association (LGA) warned that the scheme has been underfunded for years by central government, and is being financially topped up by councils at the expense of other discretionary services.
In a new report – due to be published later this week – the LGA is calling on the Government to fully fund the concessionary fares scheme and give councils control over the Bus Service Operators’ Grant.
Cllr Martin Tett, LGA transport spokesman, said: ‘Faced with significant funding pressures, many across the country are being forced into taking difficult decisions to scale back services and review subsidised routes.
‘The way the concessionary travel scheme is funded by Whitehall has not kept up with growing demand and cost. By giving councils control over the Bus Service Operators’ Grant, and properly funding the free bus pass schemes the government could help us support and maintain our essential bus services, reduce congestion and protect vital routes.’
New figures show that the number of bus journeys made in in England has fallen to its lowest level in a decade, according to official figures.
There were 75 million fewer bus journeys made in 2016/17 compared to the previous year, a decrease of 1.7%.
This article first appeared on localgov.co.uk.