Montgomeryshire Assembly Member, Russell George, said that the Welsh Government’s cut to Powys County Council’s Local Transport Services Grant was extremely ‘damaging’ and would have a ‘devastating impact’ on the most vulnerable living in rural Mid Wales.
The Welsh Government made the announcement last week, after the Local Government Minister, Carl Sargeant AM, finally agreed the budget for the forthcoming financial year. The overall budget for 2012-13 has been set at £8m, which is a 28% cut from this financial year, when the budget stood at £11m.
Welsh Government officials stated in an official letter to local authorities that “this was a difficult decision in the face of the tight spending constraints” and that “each local authority would share the same percentage reduction in its specific allocation”. The consequence for Powys County Council means that it is due to receive about £200,000 less next year, with its grant allocation falling from £744,000 to £541,000.
Commenting, Mr George said:
“This is very bad news for people living in rural Mid Wales and will have a devastating impact on community transport programmes.
“I know that Powys County Council sets aside 10% of its grant allocation to fund community transport programmes across the region.
“Essentially what this cut means is that £20,000 will be lost to support innovative, local schemes, like Dial-a-Ride in Newtown, which for many vulnerable people living in the most rural parts of Montgomeryshire, are a vital lifeline.
“While I appreciate the Government has cut each local authorities allocation by the same amount, Powys has never enjoyed the same level of support in previous years as authorities like Cardiff and Swansea. Therefore, this current reduction is only going to hit services in the region even harder.
“This grant cut, coupled with the 25% cut in contributions that bus contractors are able to claim back towards fuel, means that transport services in rural Mid Wales are going to be significantly damaged.
“I have already met with the trustees of Dial-a-Ride in Newtown to see what can be done to mitigate these cuts because I know if this service has to finish, many hundreds of people will be severely affected."