Free bus pass threat to services
Bus services are facing the axe as councils struggle to fund free travel for elderly people.
Government funding for free, off-peak travel for elderly and disabled people has fallen by 39% since 2010, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).
It added that councils are being increasingly forced to subsidise this concessionary travel at the cost of other essential services.
The LGA said that Buckinghamshire, Cumbria and Somerset were among county councils cutting back on services due to funding problems.
Peter Box, the LGA's economy and transport board chairman said: "The concessionary fares scheme provides a lifeline for our most vulnerable residents to go shopping, pick up medication, attend doctor appointments or socialise with friends. However, it is now under real threat.
"Years of underfunding of the scheme forces councils to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers' money to subsidise the scheme. This is now impossible with councils having to make savings while struggling to protect vital services like adult social care, protecting children, filling potholes and collecting bins."
He went on: "Councils know how important buses are for their communities and local economies and are desperate to protect them. Instead, many across the country are reluctantly taking difficult decisions to scale back services and review subsidised routes.
"The way the concessionary travel scheme is funded by Whitehall has long been unfit for purpose and has not kept up with growing demand and cost. Unless the Government commits to fully funding concessionary fares, elderly and disabled people will be left stranded with a free bus pass in one hand but no local buses to travel on in the other."
Sustainable transport organisation Sustrans said: "With one in four households in England without a car (more than five million homes in total) it is essential that we see more investment into affordable alternatives, including buses.
"Young people, jobseekers and older people all need affordable and reliable bus services to access education, employment, leisure facilities and other services."
A Government spokeswoman said: "We know that bus services are vital for many older and disabled people. That is why the right to free travel is enshrined in law and government provides funding to meet the cost of subsidising off-peak travel for these groups.
"In addition, the Department for Transport provides funding to bus operators to help more services run and keep ticket prices down. The current level of this funding is protected until 2015/16."