Rethink on county’s bus travel concessions

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Unlimited free bus travel for disabled people could be introduced in Suffolk as leading councillors reconsider the county’s concessionary fare scheme.

Removing all time restrictions for free travel for the disabled, which would cost £71,000 to £345,448, is among three options to be examined by Suffolk County Council’s cabinet.

The authority currently delivers the basic national scheme which provides free travel between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays as well as all day at weekends and bank holidays for older people and those with disabilities.

Another option is to allow the elderly to travel free from 9am costing £144,000 to £180,000.

An alternative is to increase the value of travel vouchers - given instead of passes - from £50 to £100, which would see the council fork out £60,000 to £90,000.

It follows an earlier decision by councillors in July to double the value of travel vouchers but not to extend eligibility times above the government funded minimum.

The decision was later called in by the council’s scrutiny committee following concerns over the level of consultation and whether a full Equality Impact Assessment had been completed. The committee asked the cabinet to reconsider the decision.

A consultation was carried out as well as a second equality assessment, which found that while the decision not to enhance the scheme would affect people, the impact would be minimal and could be mitigated by closer working with medical practitioners and increasing the value of the travel vouchers.

Cllr Guy McGregor, cabinet member responsible for transport, said: “People’s access to public transport is a key issue so it’s important that we get the decision on how we deliver this national scheme right. The decision will have to balance the needs of service users and the financial implications of any enhancements.”

The cabinet will meet on December 11.