There's some important breaking news on concessionary bus travel in Darlington. The announcement also has implications for the 5 Post Offices targetted for closure by the Royal Mail in the Borough.
Ever keen to ensure the maximum return on Council Tax payers' money, officers have managed to save an extra £200,000 on DBC's insurance bill. The savings have been achieved by effective financial management, including risk management policies and retendering insurance cover.
This is in line with the Council's reputation for achieving value for money - Darlington Council has been awarded the highest marks in this category by the independent Audit Commission.
The figure would meet the cost of allowing Darlington concessionary pass holders to travel free-of-charge all day, every day on local bus services. As I blogged recently, my survey of 100 councils in England shows that nationwide only 1 in 4 have made this level of provision.
At the same time, the Post Office have given their final response to the Council's enquiry about the cost of taking over the threatened post offices in Cleveland Terrace, Croft (Hurworth Place), Heighington, Hopetown and Milbank.
The Council has been told that under no circumstances will the Hopetown post office be allowed to remain open (owing, apparently to the potential impact on other branches nearby). The Post Office will allow the other post offices to remain open, but only if the council hands over around £120,000 annually.
Frankly, I don't think that this is an offer which the council can take seriously, and I'm afraid that it is indicative of the company's attitude that the Hopetown branch was taken off the negotiating table completely.
As you can see from the Council website, Council Leader Cllr. John Williams has tonight issued a statement which expresses his disappointment at the Post Office's approach. It's very positive news, however, that owing to good financial management, a windfall is available which will allow free travel for concessionary bus travel to be fully extended. The Council has been listening to the views of pensioners, for example at Talking Together events, and this announcement is the result.
John will recommend to Cabinet on 8th July that we take forward the free travel initiative. If approved, the change will come into effect on 21st July.