Monday, January 25, 2016

News: Transport budgets reduced again

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Rotherham Council's levy to fund transport services in the region is set to be around £11.5m for 2016/17 as the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Combined Authority meets to discuss the budget for the coming year.

The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) is the lead organisation in South Yorkshire for operational public transport delivery. Its remit is centred on providing public transport and customer service operations, and delivering the plans and strategies of the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Executive Team to the travelling public. Steve Edwards took on the role of executive director at the SYPTE at the end of 2015.

Funding comes from the government and levies from South Yorkshire's four local authorities and its revenue budget supports concessionary travel, community transport, bus services which are not commercially provided by bus operators, information provision, customer assistance, Interchange operations, provision and maintenance of bus stops, tram and train services.

The SYPTE has delivered significant savings since 2010/11, with a 29% reduction in budget and a 48% reduction in the workforce. In 2014/15 and 2015/16 cuts were made to customer facing services including concessionary travel schemes and information centres.

A report to the Combined Authority, states: "Reflecting the significant budget pressures local authorities are facing, the South Yorkshire Local Authorities have requested a 10% reduction on the levy. Based on the 2015/16 figure (£68,381), this represents a reduction in funding to the CA of £6.8m."

With £60.5m set to come via the local councils, the SYPTE is left with an £8.5m "budget pressure" and is proposing to make the use of some of its reserves, make savings from debt charges, implement a number of "efficiencies" and make policy choices to raise revenue.

Following public consultation and impact assessments, the SYPTE is proposing to increase the child concessionary fare from 70p to 80p – providing a full year saving up to £1.6m.

The current concession is available to the under 16's, and 16-18 year olds in full time education. The report states: "The main impact will be on young people and their families who will have to pay increased fares, and any increases may be seen as a barrier to travel. Whilst the exact impact of this change is hard to quantify SYPTE has identified alternative products which will mean that these impacts can be mitigated."

Mitigation includes the multi operator and single operator prepaid period value for money tickets.

A reduced contribution to supported bus services could also save £320,000.

Unusual accountancy procedures have been used to restructure financing liabilities and reduce the levies. Since 2014, the Combined Authority has awarded SYPTE £103.4m of capital grants in an innovative financing arrangement that has delivered significant revenue savings and flexibility to the transport levy, allowing for sustainable levy reductions whilst protecting service delivery from cuts that would otherwise have been necessary.

SCR's transport strategy and policy functions, previously led by SYPTE, moved under the portfolio of the SCR Executive Team in May 2015.

SYPTE website

Images: SYPTE

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