SNP blamed for rail cuts

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The SNP group at West Lothian Council has accused Labour councillors of making secretive cuts to a concessionary travel scheme.

Councillor Robert De Bold, the SNP group spokesman for development and transport claims that Cathy Muldoon, his Labour Party counterpart, admitted when questioned that the much-used concessionary rail scheme for those aged over 60 is to be significantly reduced due to a 57 per cent budget cut.

Despite further questioning by Cllr De Bold, the Labour council’s administration declined to state whether this would be achieved through reducing those entitled to the scheme or reducing the value of the ticket subsidy.

Mr De Bold further claims that, when asked, the administration refused to undertake any form of consultation specifically related to the scheme or to undertake an impact assessment on those affected.

He now fears that more than half of those who currently use the scheme will be prevented from using it in future or the amount paid towards each ticket will reduce by more than half.

If this is the case, a typical concessionary off-peak day return ticket to Edinburgh will double in cost.

Councillor De Bold told the Journal and Gazette: “Those who use the scheme will be denied any say in how the cuts will be implemented or whether the cuts should fall elsewhere.

“The SNP group believes this is wrong and will be proposing a motion at the next council meeting for the axe to be suspended until those who use the scheme can have their say and be fully consulted.”

West Lothian Council Labour group leader, Councillor John McGinty said: “Councillor De Bold must inhabit some parallel world that the rest of us cannot access. In response to his question asking if the budget for concessionary rail travel would be cut by 57 per cent, my colleague Cllr Muldoon provided a very clear, unambiguous, one word answer – no.

“The fact is that the SNP Government voted for a budget in the Scottish Parliament which has forced £10 million of cuts in West Lothian this year. Cllr De Bold’s SNP Group Leader at the council admitted that the SNP Scottish Government has cut funding to councils in Scotland by a staggering 11 per cent.

“What we are now seeing is the impact of SNP-led austerity hitting council services hard.

“Changes will need to be made in the concessionary travel scheme to ensure that it remains affordable.”