One of story lines in the Yes Minister comedy series would be when Jim Hacker praised some particular scheme or initiative during a photo opportunity – only to then find there some problem with it which required some desperate subsequent cover up.
Conservative leader David Cameron praised an initiative in Guildford to provide school buses to help the environment and avoid reduce cars on the "school run." But it's being axed by Surrey County Council because not enough people used it and the cost worked out as £8 per pupil per day. Fair enough. The cost does sound unreasonable. But if Surrey wants to make really big savings they should also take the axe to their own bureaucracy.
Cllr Ian Lake, the Cabinet Member for Transport at Surrey County Council, says:
‘Ride Pegasus’ was established in January 2006 as a five-year pilot that is due to end in December 2010. It is not ‘being scrapped’, but following the end of the pilot period it will not be continued.
The current charge per trip to pupils is £5.70p of which the parents/pupils pay between £1.20 and £1.80. In other words, under Pegasus, SCC currently spends more than £5,000 per day moving 1% of children of primary school age around one part of Surrey. This is clearly unacceptable and unsustainable, particularly when one is mindful of the economic situation in the country at present. Even some of our political opponents in Surrey have recognised this, and we hope that local residents in Guildford and the surrounding area will understand our reasoning.
We have looked into the possibility of raising fares, but the fare increases required to make the fares more realistic would drive away sufficient pupils as to still render the service uneconomic.
It is with regret that we have decided not to continue Pegasus. We cannot, in all conscience, continue to provide a service that offers such poor value for money to the residents of Surrey.
I should also like to point out that whilst looking at Pegasus we are also undertaking a wider review into busses in Surrey given that our subsidies have now risen to £11m p/a, an increase of £7m on the 2001/02 figure. This, again, is difficult to justify, particularly in the current economic climate.
Surrey County Council receives 80% of our funding from local taxpayers and only 20% from government grants. We are acutely aware that we have to ensure value for money for our taxpayers.