TRANSPORT campaigners have voiced dismay after the council responsible for England’s largest county confirmed it had spent the lion’s share of grants to develop innovative rural transport solutions on replacing old vehicles.

The campaigners, who are pressing North Yorkshire County Council to develop travel alternatives to traditional public transport in rural areas, said the Department for Transport (DfT) had provided £832,000 to the authority in 2010 and 2011 “for the development of local community transport services”.

Awarding the grant, the then transport minister Norman Baker said: “I would expect authorities do not use this extra DfT revenue funding to displace planned expenditure on community transport and supported bus services for 2011/12.”

In 2014, a council assistant director stated the authority had continued to support community transport through its general budget and “the DfT funding is still intact”. 

When asked last week if the DfT funding had been spent, a council spokesman said it was all spent between 2011 and 2016, and that £501,000 of the funding had been used to replace community transport vehicles.

Mr Connor, a former bus firm managing director and community transport consultant, said: “Effectively, therefore their spending on community transport was no greater than it would have been if the grant had not been received from DfT. The council appears to have invoiced themselves.

“The grants were supposed to be additional to normal spending in order to get new schemes off the ground without the need for rural counties to provide more money. Instead they simply used the money to buy new vehicles.”

The authority’s executive member for access Councillor Don Mackenzie said: “Retaining a bus network across a large rural county like ours is crucially important to people who have little or no access to other means of transport. We have 22 contracts with seven community transport providers across the county and over the last three years we have spent over £1m on community transport in grants and capital funding, training, marketing, car scheme funding and by operating a fare cap scheme for community transport provision for health appointments.”