PRICES for concessionary bus passes and fares in Redcar and Cleveland are set to increase by 25pc and 33pc respectively.

The cost of an annual council pass will rise from £12 to £15, while the concessionary fare rate rises from 30p to 40p.

Pensioners reacted angrily to the proposals and held a demonstration, backed by Vera Baird, MP for Redcar. They also compiled a petition with more than 1,000 signatures.

But the council cabinet has decided to approve the hike in charges, saying it would be the first increase for six years and was still a good deal.

Coun Glyn Nightingale, cabinet member for corporate resources, said: "This is a decision we are taking reluctantly, but we still believe our scheme represents excellent value for money.

"The emotive criticism around our proposal avoids the facts of the matter. Anyone over 60, including people who work, those unable to walk long distances and the blind, are eligible for passes - there is no means testing."

About 16,000 people travel on concessionary bus passes in the borough. Of these, 12,000 use the council-run scheme, while the remaining 4,000 choose a Government scheme which includes a free pass and half-fare travel. Passengers have the choice to switch to the Government scheme, which is unaffected by the price rises, but will not receive a refund from the pass charge.

Vera Baird described the planned increase as "dreadful" and an unnecessary burden on pensioners.

She said: "There were other places to impose cuts, if indeed cuts are necessary, and to put a double whammy on senior citizens by increasing the bus pass charges and the council tax, as they intend to do, is reprehensible."

The increase would bring in an extra £186,000 for the council, which represents about a 0.5pc increase in council tax.

Coun Nightingale added: "The coalition was elected to put services first and keep the council tax within reasonable bounds. That is what we have set in motion."

* A proposal to consider a half-fare charge for pensioners on Saltburn's cliff lift was rejected by the council cabinet.