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Concessionary Transport - MP challenges funding



March 4th 2008

North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale, has today challenged Transport Minister over the funding available to local authorities to back up the Government's nationwide concessionary bus travel scheme which is due to come into force on April 1st.

In a Departmental Press Release issued today the Minister has listed Viking Bay, Broadstairs as the kind of venue that Londoners might wish to visit. 

"I am sure that Broadstairs would be delighted to receive visitors" said Roger Gale on the floor of the House at question time "but the correspondence that I have had with Kent County Council, Thanet District Council and Canterbury City Council suggests that there are real concerns over the funding of the scheme.  Will the Minister of State give an assurance that a disproportionate cost will not fall upon resort destinations"?

In reply the Minister said that there were 35 thousand people in Thanet who would be eligible for bus passes and that the Council had been given a 45% increase in the grant made available for 2006/2007.

Speaking after the exchange Roger Gale said:

"The jury is very much out on this scheme.  I want residents to be able to travel and of course East Kent welcomes visitors.  If, however, local ratepayers find themselves picking up the travel bill for scores of people travelling free from Central London and using local services at our expense then that might not go down so well. The Central Government grant is, as always, less than generous,. If it proves inadequate to meet the real costs then once again Kent authorities will find themselves having to either increase Council Tax or cut services and neither would be acceptable.  However, the Minister's comments are now a matter of record so we shall be able to return to this issue if necessary". 

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