Decision due on proposed transport budget…
Councillors serving on the authority will meet next Friday (February 14) to decide on how to balance the books while securing a five per cent budget reduction for 2014/15.
As well as retaining free tram and train travel and half price child fares, it is also proposed to keep free bus travel after 11pm for older people, the blind and disabled. Free bus travel from 9:30am onwards is protected and will be untouched.
The region’s Ring and Ride charity would receive an annual grant of £8.5 million, enabling it to maintain a door-to-door transport service between 8am and 8pm Monday to Saturday.
A new £1 per trip fare would be introduced and ways of providing a limited Sunday service explored.
The budget recommendations, which aim to shield passengers as far as possible from cuts to frontline services, will require Centro to reduce its own operational and staffing costs by £3 million (15 per cent) which is £1 million more than originally planned.
It means Centro, through on-going staffing restructures and other efficiencies, will have reduced such costs from £27 million in 2010 to £16.5 million in 2014/15 – a cut of nearly 40 per cent.
The recommendations will, however, enable Centro to reduce the amount of money it needs from the region’s seven district councils – Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton – who are facing similar budget cuts of their own.
Centro chairman, Cllr John McNicholas, said: “The district councils have seen their own funding cut dramatically so it’s only right that Centro responds by reducing the amount of funding it requires from them.
“That means making some very tough choices but in drawing up these recommendations Centro has tried to protect passengers and hard working families as much as possible.
“In order to do that, Centro will be finding extra savings internally. However, cutting its operational costs for the coming year by 15 per cent will inevitably impact on its workforce and the way it delivers those services especially given the substantial internal cuts already made over the last four years.”
Friday’s meeting will also see councillors asked to approve a £1 million reduction in bus station and infrastructure maintenance to achieve total savings of £7.3 million for 2014/15.
That would enable Centro’s levy on the district councils to be reduced from £146 million to £138.7 million.
The recommendations have been shaped and influenced by more than 8,000 responses given during a recent public consultation.
People were asked to give their views on a range of proposed options aimed at saving ten per cent (£14 million) from the Centro budget over the coming two years.
· Children paying two thirds of the adult fare on buses instead of half
· Removing free local rail and tram travel for eligible people or introducing a nominal annual charge of around £30
· Reducing or scrapping the annual £10 million grant to Ring and Ride
· Reducing the number of taxpayer funded bus services
· Removing the locally funded ‘add on’ which allows eligible people to travel free on buses after 11pm
Cllr McNicholas added: “I would like to thank all those members of the public who put forward their views during the consultation. They have played a key role in helping Centro put these budget recommendations together.
“But while we have identified savings of £7 million for the coming year we still face finding similar savings for 2015/16.”
The budget report due to go before the Integrated Transport Authority meeting on Friday February 14 can viewed at http://bit.ly/1eEB2xX
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