15 January 2009

Peterborough's £1m debt

We've learned that Peterborough City Council's (PCC) transport budget for the next financial year faces a shortfall to the tune of one million pounds.

We understand that the vast majority of this deficit is directly attributable to the free concessionary fare scheme. Additionally, the large number of bus services the unitary authority has set-up, and operated directly over the past few years through Kickstart funding, has added another dimension to PCC's financial problems: the money for many of the services runs out in April. These 'Local Link' services were effectively routes Stagecoach did not want to operate commercially when it revampted its 'citi' network there in 2004, and so are not commercially viable.

With no additional funding from central government, the routes will only be able to continue if funding can be found from within PCC's budget. With a recent report that 400 jobs are to be lost there and a £1m shortfall in the transport department, can the recent award-winning local authority pull a very significant Sterling-shaped rabbit from its proverbial hat?

Additionally, the council's bus drivers recently won an appeal into their rate of pay, with an hourly increase of over one pound to an impressive £9.21 - considerably more than the pay rate Stagecoach offer the majority of its workforce there.

It's ironic that, while the DfT said that money allocated to local authorities for reimbursing bus operators for the free concessionary scheme was not to be ringfenced, it would appear that when a specific debt has been run-up in an authority's budget, this debt is most definitely ringfenced!