To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what representations he has received on the future of the Freedom Pass in London, and from whom; how much was spent on the scheme in London in each of the last three years; how much is projected to be spent in (a) 2009-10 and (b) 2010-11; and if he will make a statement.
The right to free travel for older and disabled people is enshrined in Primary Legislation.
London boroughs have been obliged to offer London-wide travel to their eligible residents since the introduction of the GLA Act in 1999. Therefore the only increase in costs London faced as a result of the improved England-wide bus concession-which was introduced in 2008-was for the cost of non-London residents who are aged over 60 or eligible disabled now travelling free on the London bus network at off-peak times.
It was expected that a sizeable grant would be needed to meet the cost of these non-London resident travellers. However, there have been far fewer of these trips than anticipated.
I have met with London Councils to discuss the special grant funding that has been made available by Government to fund the additional costs of the improved statutory minimum bus concession from April 2008. I have also received letters from a number of London MPs, members of the House of Lords and Councillors of London Boroughs about the special grant funding. Many of these representations were based on misunderstandings over the purpose of the special grant funding.
The purpose of the Special Grant has only ever been to fund the change in the concession referred to above. The majority of funding for concessionary travel continues to be provided through formula grant.
London boroughs report their spending on concessionary travel to the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) as part of their annual local government spending returns. The London Boroughs reported concessionary travel spending of £203 million in 2006-07 and £222 million in 2007-08.
The outturn figures for 2008-09 are not due to be published by CLG until later this month, however the Boroughs' reported concessionary travel budget for 2008-09 was £220 million. For 2009-10 the Boroughs' reported concessionary travel budget is £189 million. 2010-11 budget figures are not due to be published until next year.
London Councils reported in the minutes of their Transport and Environment Committee meeting of
The projection of special grant funding required in 2010-11 is based on the additional costs that authorities have actually incurred following the change to the statutory minimum bus concession.
Although the new special grant distribution that is currently being consulted on would reduce London's grant, it would leave the London boroughs with significantly more funding than the actual burden that has been imposed by the change in the statutory minimum concession.