by Julia on 22 April, 2008
And so it begins – with an impending election, the Conservatives have chosen to not tell the truth in their literature in the hopes of winning a few illgotten votes….
The Conservatives are claiming that the Liberal Democrats wilfully refused to support a fully costed scheme which would have preserved tokens for the disabled and vulnerable.
This is untrue. The Conservatives proposed a rushed scheme which was not fully costed and opened up the Council to huge financial risks. They did not even say who would be covered by their proposals.
The government has significantly under-funded the new national bus pass scheme. It has allocated just £444,000 to Maidstone for a scheme which is likely to cost the taxpayer close on £2 million by the end of the first year. The Council will almost certainly need to go back to the government for top-up funding but it has been made clear that this will not be available to any Council continuing to provide ‘additional’ concessions such as Maidstone’s existing token scheme. Without such extra funding, huge increases to the Council Tax could not be avoided.
All parties on the Council were working together to seek a solution which would provide the benefits of the Token Scheme without running this kind of risk. The Conservatives then broke ranks and decided to bring forward their own rushed and ill- thought-out proposals.
The Liberal Democrats have continued to work with others to find a system that will enable the Council to fund outside Agencies to help those vulnerable people who have been disadvantaged by the new bus pass scheme.
This will take time. However, the first grant under this heading (£6000) has already been awarded to Age Concern to enable them to continue to provide free transport to and from their Day Centres for those who need it.
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