UNLIKE neighbouring North and West Dorset, residents over the age of 60 and disabled people in East Dorset are to be able to continue to travel on buses for free all day until at least October 2016. This follows a unanimous decision by East Dorset District Council's resources committee.
Although the national scheme limits concessionary bus travel to start after 9.30am, East Dorset residents have been allowed to also travel before 9.30am with their bus passes.
This arrangement was due to expire in April this year but councillors were keen to keep the pre-9.30am, all-day validity of the pass.
The cost of the all-day scheme is estimated at approximately £36,000 per year but dropping it would have meant paying £27,000 for replacement bus passes. The net cost of continuing is therefore only £9,000 for 2013/14.
Resources committee chairman, Alex Clarke, commented: "I am very pleased with the decision as it enables the over 60s and disabled people to use the bus services to the full. It is particularly important in supporting our residents in more rural areas where there may be little choice of buses and pre-9.30am may be the only practical option.
"These are challenging times financially for local councils but with the efficiencies we have made through partnership working, particularly with Christchurch, we are able to fund this travel which adds significantly to the quality of life in east Dorset."
The recommendations from the resources committee will be received for ratification by the meeting of the Full Council which is being held on 25th February 2013.
In North Dorset and West Dorset free travel for elderly and disabled people is to be cut with both authorities agreeing to stop funding bus journeys before 9.30am.
However, in North Dorset, cabinet members have decided to establish a £5,000 fund to support those who need to use public transport before 9.30am to get to medical appointments.
West Dorset District Council is to provide £10,000 to ease the impact by contributing towards community transport schemes.