Travel concessions under threat, but boost for independent living as Lancashire County Council agrees £15m cost-cutting plan

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Travel concessions for some teenagers and disabled people could be scrapped, while more residents will be supported to live independently, under plans by Lancashire County Council to save £15m.

The authority’s cabinet has agreed to consult on more than a dozen cost-cutting and income-generating schemes to help balance its books. If ultimately approved, the measures would form part of a total £96m of savings that County Hall is aiming to deliver over the next three years.

Amongst the proposals is the withdrawal of Lancashire’s young person’s travel scheme, which provides free bus passes to 16-18-year-olds who are not working or studying, or who are carers or young parents.

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A subsidised £1 bus fare for holders of a disabled person’s NoW travel card journeying before 9.30am on weekdays would also go. The two changes would save an estimated £394,000 between them.

Some services are being cut and others expanded - but both with the aim of saving moneySome services are being cut and others expanded - but both with the aim of saving money
Some services are being cut and others expanded - but both with the aim of saving money

Meanwhile, almost £2m could be saved by expanding a service designed to support people to stay in their own homes longer and reduce the risk of them needing to go into care, along with £800,000 by ensuring that the NHS - and not the local authority - covers the cost of complex healthcare packages for young people, where it is their responsibility to do so.

Other potential savings include changes to care arrangement fees, as well as the £6.3m windfall expected from recently-agreed changes to how food waste is processed in the county when dedicated household collections begin in two years.

However, one suggestion will raise far less than the £794,000 it was set to generate, after plans to expand on-street pay and display charges in towns across the county were significantly scaled back when eight out of Lancashire's 12 district councils said they did not support them and two others expressed reservations.

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Elements of the overall package of proposals are subject to public consultations, while equality impact assessments will also be carried out where they are deemed necessary by the authority.

The savings came under the microscope at the recent cabinet meeting where they were approved in principle, having previously been probed at a session of the county council’s scrutiny management committee.


Disabled person’s NoW card early morning fare

Removal of the £1 fare currently available for holders of a disabled person’s NoW card travelling before 9.30am, Monday to Friday.

Scrutiny management committee chair David Westley sought reassurance that the proposed move would not disadvantage disabled people travelling to work.

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Oliver Starkey, Lancashire County Council's head of service for public and integrated transport, explained that while around 100,000 single journeys were made using the NoW card in the space of a year in Lancashire, fewer than 50 passes were used more than 300 times over the same period.. He said that the stats suggested the “vast majority of these passes are used for occasional journeys”, rather than by people going to work.

However, the committee heard that the required public consultation and equality impact assessment would be used to determine whether anybody would be “profoundly affected” by the proposed change.

Total saving: £239K

Young Person’s Travel Scheme

Withdrawal of the scheme under which free bus passes are provided to any 16-18-year-olds who is a young carer, a young parent or not currently in education, employment or training. The county council says that the concession is “not well used”.

It is proposed that the savings generated are reassigned to the school transport service and to help deliver broader bus improvement plans. However, Labour opposition group leader Azhar Ali suggested to the authority’s cabinet that it might be wiser to better promote the scheme instead of scrapping it.

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Cabinet member for highways and transport, Rupert Swarbrick, responded that the authority would not be proposing to get rid of the initiative if it were “being used properly”.

Total saving: £155K

Enablement service expansion

Recruitment of an extra eight full-time-equivalent staff into a service designed to help people live more independently for longer - and so reduce the cost of current and future care packages.

Elaine Quesada, deputy director of adult services at Lancashire County Council, told the scrutiny management committee that the aim of the expansion was to be able to support more people who have “the potential [for] independence”

Total saving: £1.9m (after extra staff costs)

Care arrangement fee

The introduction of a care arrangement charge for individuals who pay the full cost of their care, currently 2,400 people and evenly split between those receiving residential and non-residential care.

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Cabinet member for adult social care Graham Gooch told his cabinet colleagues: “The number of full-cost payers who approach the council for support in arranging their care is…is expected to increase over the coming years and the council considers it prudent to introduce an arrangement to cover that cost. We have to charge those who can afford it to ensure that it’s sustainable.

Extra income: £280K

Residential care fees

The introduction of a top-up fee, which will raise the charge paid by people with residential places commissioned by the county council - and who have assets above the financial threshold - up to the same level paid by private funders.

Extra income: £344K

Care package cost sharing

Review of care packages to ensure the county council is not inappropriately delivering support to children and young people with highly complex health needs, where the funding for that support should be the responsibility of the NHS.

County Cllr Ali told the scrutiny management committee that while he understood the rationale for the proposal, he was concerned about the prospect of vulnerable youngsters falling through the cracks in the event of a “dispute” between the NHS and County Hall over who should pay what.

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The authority’s finance director, Neil Kissock, said a protocol had been agreed which enabled “joint assessments” to take place between the county council and the NHS in order to determine “an appropriate share of the costs”.

Extra income: £800K

Adult social care charging policy

Full application of the charging policy and centralised sourcing of all adult social care placements and packages of care within the integrated commissioning service, in order to provide residents with "one offer of reasonably-priced care". Should a resident choose an alternative provider or care home, they will be required to top up the difference in cost.

Total saving: £1.3m

Council-owned residential homes

Aim to reduce the overall cost of the county council’s in-house residential care homes by increasing bed occupancy and making them more efficient.

Total saving: £500K

Processing of food waste

Savings to be achieved via a combination of the reduction in energy bills at the Farington tip - by using electricity from anaerobically-digested food waste to power the plant - and from the cost difference compared to how food waste is currently processed in Lancashire. To be introduced along with weekly segregated food waste collections from all households by early 2026.

Total saving: £6.3m

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Review of council buildings

Assessment of how the county council’s estate is used, with a focus on “optimisation” of properties and the disposal of those buildings no longer needed as a result of changes to working practices or the scope for services to be co-located with other organisations.

Total saving: £1.74m

County Hall and Lancashire House changes

Securing a tenant for office space in the County Hall complex in Preston and reducing its hours of operation to save on energy costs. Also, changes to security staffing arrangements at Lancashire House in Accrington.

Total saving: £490K

Vacant council posts

Scrapping a number of vacant posts within the planning and transport service and increasing the income target from planning application fees.

Total saving/extra income: £176K

Pavement clearance

Introduction of more efficient methods of clearing vegetation from walking and cycling routes.

Total saving: £150K

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Pay and display expansion

Initial proposal to introduce on-street pay and display meters in towns across Lancashire now set to be significantly watered-down after it was rejected by eight out of 12 district council leaders.

Extra income: revised estimate needed

School consultancy and advisory service

Ten percent increase in fees for support and advice to school leaders in order to cover the cost of the service.

Extra income: £300K

Book stock management

Make use of new technology to allow more efficient management of the county council’s library book stock.

Total saving: £200K