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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 02/10/2007
Concessionary Fares



APPENDIX F
Waverley Borough Council

COMMUNITY OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY – 10TH SEPTEMBER 2007

EXECUTIVE – 2ND OCTOBER 2007
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Title:
CONCESSIONARY FARES – INTRODUCTION OF NATIONAL SCHEME
[Wards Affected: All]
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Summary and purpose:

This report, which was considered by the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 10th September, is to inform Members of the extension of the statutory free concessionary travel on local bus services to a national scheme from 1st April 2008 and to seek a view on the discretionary concessions offered by the scheme in Surrey.
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Environmental implications:

Bus passes offering free travel for people aged over 60 and disabled people help to promote the use of public transport and help to reduce congestion, and fuel usage.

Social / community implications:

Bus passes offering free travel help to promote social inclusion, and because it is a universal benefit, there is no stigma attached to receiving a bus pass.
The national Concessionary Fares scheme is intended to offer free bus travel for eligible people during off-peak times throughout the country.

E-Government implications:

There are none arising directly from this report, however, with the introduction of the national free bus travel scheme in April 2008, the Government wishes to further its E-Government agenda by issuing bus passes in ‘smart-card’ format for possible future use of smart technology.

Resource and legal implications:

Until reimbursement negotiations with the bus companies commence for the financial year 2008-09, it is not possible to assess the costs of the options accurately. However there are costs associated with offering additional concessions to the national Concessionary Fares scheme. Reducing time concessions does not necessarily result in a commensurate reduction in costs since pass holders may merely change their travel habits to coincide with the scheme, however, there are costs associated with “companion passes”.
The Government currently provides a level of grant for concessionary travel in the Revenue Support Grant settlement. Currently, the impact of the national scheme on Waverley’s grant is unclear.
In addition to these running costs, Waverley is investigating options for implementing the national scheme in terms of data and bus permit management, it is anticipated that these costs will be covered by a one off implementation grant from the Government.
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Background

1. The Transport Act 2000 clarified that Boroughs and District Councils had the statutory duty to provide the Concessionary Fares Scheme. Under the Act national minimum standards were set for people aged over 60 and people with disabilities in possession of a bus pass to receive concessions on local buses in their area. The concessions must be offered on any bus service that is entitled to the Bus Service Operators Grant (previously known as Fuel Duty Rebate).

2. In 2005, the Chancellor announced that the Government intended to extend the Concessionary Fares scheme from half-fare to free off-peak local bus travel for those eligible, with effect from 1st April 2006. This was introduced as an Order made under Section 147 of the Transport Act 2000.

3. The minimum concession that must be offered by the travel concession authorities is for free off-peak travel after 9.30am and before 11pm, Monday to Friday, and all day at weekends, within the authority’s boundary.

4. From April 2008 the scheme is being further extended to entitle pass holders to use their passes for free, off peak, local bus travel anywhere in England.

5. Authorities are free to offer more generous schemes or alternatives under the powers given in the Transport Act.

6. The Act requires local authorities to reimburse bus operators for providing the concessions. Reimbursement arrangements include the requirement that bus operators should be no better and no worse off as a result of participating in a Concessionary Fares Scheme in terms of revenue and vehicle resource.

Concessionary Fares in Surrey

7. The statutory obligation is on the district or unitary authority as the “travel concession authority”, however, in Surrey the scheme is administered by the County on behalf of the boroughs and districts. The boroughs and districts maintain responsibility for issuing the bus passes to eligible local people.

8. The consortium of boroughs and districts, administered by the County, offers additional discretionary concessions as follows:

a. free travel across borough/district boundaries throughout Surrey;
b. over 60’s are able to travel after 9am (rather than 9.30am), Monday to Friday,
c. disabled pass holders can travel at any time; and
d. the “companion pass” allows eligible people and their “companions” to travel together free of charge

9. At the end of June 2007 the approximate number of permits issued in Waverley, by type, was as follows:



National Concessionary Fares Scheme 2008 and beyond

10. Under the Concessionary Fares Scheme from April 2008 the national minimum concession continues to be free off-peak travel after 9.30am, furthermore it extends the scheme to include free off-peak travel across England for all pass holders.

11. The Surrey Concessionary Fares Group believes it is timely to review the Surrey scheme to decide: A. whether it will continue to offer the additional concessions over and above the national minimum, B. whether to change the concessions to follow other local schemes, or C. whether to revert to the national minimum.

12. Under the National Concessionary Fares Scheme we will continue to operate a Surrey consortium and therefore, while the options are being put to each Borough/District, the final decision will be made by a majority of views.

Options:

A: Continue the current additional discretionary concessions

13. This would mean keeping the additional discretionary concessions as detailed in paragraph 8.

14. These additional concessions would only be valid for travel in Surrey. The national scheme would apply for any travel outside Surrey ie travel only after 9.30am, and companion passes would not be valid.

15. A recent study commissioned by the Surrey Concessionary Fares group demonstrated that the additional concessions currently offered by the Surrey scheme, that are over and above the national minimum, account for up to 3.5% of all concessionary fares journeys, and could be costed this year at around 228,000 across the County (87,000 for companion passes and 141,000 for travel between 9am and 9.30pm).

16. Using the same formula for apportioning costs among the boroughs and districts as for the full scheme costs means a cost to Waverley of approximately 24,168 (9,222 for companion passes and 14,946 for travel between 9am and 9.30pm)

17. Offering significantly different concessions to the holder of a national standard pass within a single area is likely to cause confusion for passengers as they travel across boundaries and for bus drivers, who already have to issue a variety of tickets and passes.
18. A comparison of other schemes in the South East of England shows that most offer a slight enhancement to the national scheme, though less than in Surrey, with travel after 9am for all pass holders. Some also offer companion passes.

19. Concessions in Surrey could be altered to mirror those of neighbouring counties.

20. Creating a similar scheme across South East England would be easier for bus companies to operate.
21. The minimum concession is for free off-peak travel after 9.30am and before 11pm, Monday to Friday, and all day at weekends for all pass holders. Companion passes are not offered as part of the national scheme.

22. This will reflect the intention of the national scheme which is to offer free off-peak travel.

23. Reverting to the national minimum standards would be the easiest option to administer and would mean all pass holders are offered the same concessions.

24. Reducing concessions does not necessarily reduce the cost, as experience elsewhere shows that with changes in time restrictions passengers merely change their journey times.

25. However there is a cost associated with “companion passes” even though we have a record that only 229 people have taken up this kind of pass.

Conclusion

26. The current Concessionary Fares concessions in Surrey give additional benefits over and above the national scheme. People over 60 can travel free for an extra half hour before 9.30am, and disabled people can travel free anytime. Also the “companion pass” allows eligible people and their “companions” to travel together free of charge.

27. It is important to be mindful of the effect of any reduction in the current level of concessions offered in Surrey on eligible pass holders who currently use their passes during peak hours, or who require support from a companion when travelling.

28. It is suggested within the Surrey Concessionary Fares Group that a decision is needed about additional concessions and to either streamline them with neighbouring schemes in the South East of England or revert to the minimum concessions in the national statutory scheme.

29. A view is being sought from all 11 Boroughs and Districts on the future concessions to be offered in the Surrey scheme and a decision will be made by a majority of views.

30. An early indication from other Surrey Borough/Districts shows that a majority favour option C. to revert to the national minimum statutory concessions.

Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee

31. The Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee considered that it would have a negative impact on the residents of Waverley to withdraw the concessions they currently enjoyed (identified at Option A above) and which were of great benefit to them.


Recommendation

It is recommended that the Executive notes the observations of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee and recommends to the Surrey Concessionary Fares Group that the current additional discretionary concessions be continued (bearing in mind the final decision will be made by a majority of views from all Borough/District Councils).

Background Papers (DoH)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Alayne Boyden Telephone: 01483 523350

E-mail: aboyden@waverley.gov.uk


comms\executive\2007-08\083 concess fares 021007.doc
comms\o&s2\2007-08\016 amended 10 Sept.doc