We are only one month into 2014 but already we have seen a significant number of Local Authorities making financially agonising decisions to cut funding for vital supported bus services. From what we have seen so far 2014 could really be the year that Local Government spending cuts really start to bite, however people do not give up their local bus service easily and there has been some very encouraging developments over the last few weeks.
So far in 2014 we have seen North Yorkshire County Council signing off cuts of £2m to its supported bus budgets. This was after the council consulted on cutting £1.1m, the other £0.9m has come from ‘re-procurement’ of services, which begs the question why the need to cut as much as they have proposed? The £2m cuts were ‘called in’ by the council’s scrutiny committee, but this committee rejected calls for the council to reconsider its decision and the £2m cuts are going ahead. The decision to ‘call in’ the cuts came after a huge public outcry and local campaigners standing up for their bus services. One councillor opposed to the cuts has even suggested that residents stage a council tax strike.
In Worcestershire the County Council has proposed to cut all £3m funding for supported bus services and ran a public consultation which received an unprecedented number of responses. An incredible 8,500 people responded to the consultation, 15 separate petitions generated over 6,000 signatures and there are protests planned for outside of County Hall. Due to the sheer weight of public response the Council has been forced to delay any decision until May. A significant number of respondents to the consultation were elderly, young or disabled, and the council must do all it can to adhere to the Equalities Act and we welcome the pause to study all responses to the consultation in detail.
In Lancashire there is better news as the county council performed a spectacular u-turn after listening to the concerns of local residents and reprieved all the proposed cuts to evening and weekend bus services. This is a massive victory for people power and for common sense. Local campaigners in Lancashire should be proud for standing up and fighting to protect their bus services. The County Council should also be proud to have local residents that take a stand whilst having council officers and councillors that listen to what people want: a decent, regular bus service that keeps them connected to local services, hospitals, schools and friends and family.
This news comes after the reprieve of many services in Dorset after a public outcry following the council proposing to cut £800,000 from its supported bus budgets. It is encouraging to know that there are many people out their willing to take a stand and fight for their buses. Many of these Local Authorities are predominantly rural areas and good public transport connections are vital to improving people’s quality of life.
Campaigners will be especially angry to learn that the Department for Transport has actually underspent over £100m and this money would easilly cover the cuts that are being made to bus services. Government need to answer why Local Authorities are being forced into making these cuts when there is money available to reprieve them.
Despite this public outcry it is still very worrying that these proposals are there in the first place, it is already looking like 2014 will be a terrible year for supported bus services. We are more determined than ever to step up our campaigning and we will continue to lobby central Government to give buses the decent long-term funding settlement they deserve.
We will let you know how you can help very soon, but in the meantime if you are worried about cuts to your local bus service or would like to find out more about the Save Our Buses Campaign then please visit our campaign page.