Cornwall Council is negotiating with bus companies in Cornwall on how best to minimise the impact of cuts in funding from central Government on local routes.
The Government grants money to local authorities to reimburse bus companies for the additional cost of carrying Concessionary Pass holders.
As the level of Government funding has been reduced, Cornwall Council has proposed a reduction in the level of reimbursement to bus companies from August to bring Cornwall into line with other authorities in the south west. The council has written to all bus companies to gauge responses to the proposals.
Cornwall Council currently reimburses the bus companies at a rate of 73.5% of the normal fare for journeys taken by Concessionary Pass holders, at a total cost of £7.5 million per annum. This year the budget for reimbursement has been set at £5.4 million and therefore the suggested rate of reimbursement would be about 45%.
In other south west authorities the reimbursement figure, says the Council, is understood to be 43% on average.
Graeme Hicks, Cornwall Council cabinet member for transportation and highways, said: “At a time of severely reduced funding in Government grants we have to explore the possibility of bringing the level of reimbursement in Cornwall to the same level as that in other local authorities and that is why we have contacted the bus companies.
“I know that this is an extremely sensitive issue both for the public and for Cornwall Council members and that is why the issue is being discussed at the Environment and Economy Scrutiny Committee next week.
“Their views will be reported to cabinet in September who will then make a final decision. Officers are also meeting representatives from the bus companies this Tuesday (July 26) to go through the proposals.
“I want to have a full debate on this issue. While nobody wants to reduce funding, if we do not reduce the reimbursement in line with other areas the money will have to be found from somewhere else.”
A letter has been sent to all of the bus companies in Cornwall informing them of the situation.
The matter will be discussed at the Environment and Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee next Wednesday (July 27).