The Council is suspending the introduction of a savings measure which reduced the number of free return trips for eligible passengers using Dial-a-Bus to 12 per year.
Eligible passengers will instead qualify for three free return journeys per month during 2018-19 – a reduction by one trip per month on last year.
“There has been considerable public debate around this issue,” said Councillor Graham Sinclair, Chair of OIC’s Development and Infrastructure Committee.
“People have asked whether, when setting the Council’s budget, we intended to reduce the number of free return trips to 12 per year – or by 12 per year.
“My understanding is that the aim was to fund 12 free return trips a year. But we have taken another look at the range of information that was before us during the budget setting meetings.
“It has been suggested that there is ambiguity in the interpretation of this information. I accept that and as chair of the relevant committee – and in the interests of clarity – I believe the right course of action is to defer the implementation of this reduction, and to fund three free return trips per month during the current financial year.
“We have been in discussion with Dial-a-Bus, who have welcomed this move on behalf of their passengers and will be getting in touch with them about it.”
Councillor Sinclair added: “It is likely that this is a temporary move. The Council continues to face considerable financial challenges and a reduction to 12 free return journeys a year may well be an option we need to consider when setting the budget for 2019-20.”
Scottish Government concessionary travel schemes do not cover Dial-a-Bus services in Orkney and for many years the Council has filled this gap.
In addition to the free trips funding, the Dial-a-Bus service itself has received substantial support from the Council’s community transport budget for many years. Additional funding is provided by Orkney Health and Care.
The Dial-a-Bus service is available on a pay as you go basis in addition to the three free return trips eligible passengers will receive per month.