Islington council’s U-turn as PlusBus service is saved

The future of a vital bus service for the elderly and disabled has been secured at the 11th hour – after a bitter funding row between town hall chiefs and the Mayor of London.

Islington Council has for months traded blows with Transport for London and the Mayor over the 812 bus, known as the PlusBus, with each side blaming the other after its grant was axed in February.

But the council, which previously funded the service, has now caved in and accepted �200,000 from TfL to pay for the route over the next two years – after finally agreeing to pick up the tab itself from 2013.

Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s executive member for health and adult social care, said: “It has taken a long, long time and there was give and take on both sides in the end. We will have to find money for it from 2013.”

The accessible bus, which is free for elderly and disabled people, was due to stop this month after the council withdrew its funding in the face of �39million in government cutbacks.

Islington Council rejected TfL’s offer to fund the service until 2013 back in March after refusing to guarantee backing for two years thereafter – but it has now agreed to this condition.

The bus covers streets in Finsbury and Islington not served by other public transport and can be hailed anywhere, while drivers help passengers on and off.

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It also delivers scores of elderly people to the Peel Centre in Percy Circus, Finsbury – which staged protests and collected a 300-signature petition – and has been described as a “lifeline” for residents who would be stranded at home without it.

Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition at Islington Council, who backed the Peel Centre campaign, said: “It’s a shame Labour councillors chose to argue with the Mayor for so long about it – leaving Islington pensioners and disabled people in the lurch these last six months was hardly fair.”

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said: “We have made it clear to the borough that this is no short term fix and they must ensure that the service can continue to run after the TfL funding has stopped.”