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Cumbria County Council has ramped up the campaign for fairer funding for concessionary bus fares as a joint petition with other councils across the country has seen a rise of 4,000 signatures in just three weeks.
Cumbria has joined forces with Norfolk, Devon, Buckinghamshire, North Yorkshire and a number of other rural councils left severely out of pocket to be a part of the Fair Fares campaign.
This week Leader of the Council Eddie Martin has written to the Secretary of State highlighting his concerns of the shortfall in Government funding for councils to reimburse bus operators when they accept over-60 and disabled passengers entitled to free off peak travel on scheduled bus services.
A contingent of dignitaries from the various local authorities involved will also be visiting the Department for Transport in the coming weeks to hand in the petitions to Ministers.
Earlier this month Cumbria County Councillors heard at a Cabinet meeting in West Cumbria that the council was predicted to be nearly a million pounds out of pocket this year because of the shortfall in Government funding.
The councils involved, alongside the national transport pressure group The Campaign for Better Transport, are all backing the Fair Fares campaign which started in Norfolk and has so far generated over 16,000 signatures from local people concerned that the funding shortfall could impact on the number of bus services being run. This is a steady increase from the 12,000 signatures collected as of 10 November.
On Thursday, December 1 it was been announced that due to the shortfall, the reimbursement rate for bus operators in Cumbria will be reduced to 58% from 1 April 2012. However, the county council are negotiating with the large operators to see if there are ways to minimise the effect on services as a result of the reduction to the reimbursement rate.
As well as these local negotiations with bus operators, the group of councils involved in the Fair Fares campaign will be lobbying Government to properly reimburse local authorities for delivering the scheme.
People can sign an e-petition supporting the campaign via Cumbria County Council's website or by going direct to www.gopetition.com/petitions/fair-funding-for-concessionary-fares.html
Cllr Eddie Martin, Leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “Reaching the 16,000 signatures mark is impressive and we need to continue to encourage people to contribute to the petition, as it will be the everyday residents who will suffer as a result of this shortfall. The free bus pass scheme is a vital resource for many Cumbrians, who are often vulnerable and elderly, and I can’t stress enough how we need the support at a local level to fight for fairer funding.”