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Roads to Nowhere

PMs own goal as bus cuts hit Witney

4 August 2015

Cuts to local authority funding that have caused bus services to be withdrawn in towns and villages all over the country, and are threatening to wipe out supported bus services for good, are now affecting the Prime Minister's own constituency of Witney.

Oxfordshire County Council is seeking to implement a £3.6m package of bus cuts, the largest of any council in England and Wales, which puts the entire town’s bus service under threat. Campaign for Better Transport is warning the Prime Minister, who is the MP for Witney, he can no longer hide from the effects of his own polices and he must step in as a matter of urgency to protect buses from further spending cuts.

Martin Abrams, public transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said:  “The situation in Witney is being repeated up and down the country, with bus services disappearing on an almost daily basis. Now these cuts are hitting his own constituents, it would seem nowhere is safe, so we’re urging the Prime Minister to recognise the vital role buses play in local economies and rural communities and step in to protect the millions of bus users across England and Wales.

“Without Government protection, bus budgets are likely to continue to decline as councils look to save money and bus passengers will continue to be left stranded. Now is the time to step in and protect supported bus services, before the Prime Minister misses the bus for good.”

Whilst Oxfordshire County Council’s proposed cuts are by far the largest this year, Hertfordshire and Isle of Wight councils have put forward cuts of £1.5m and £1m respectively, with Powys, North Yorkshire, Devon, Surrey and Wilshire councils all planning to cut between £500k and £1m from their bus budgets.

Research by the charity has shown that since 2010 local authority funding for bus services has been slashed by 15 per cent (£44m), with more than 2000 routes being reduced or withdrawn entirely, disproportionately affecting young people, elderly people, those on low incomes, and disabled people who make up the majority of bus passengers.

Hugh Jaeger, chair of Bus Users Oxford, said: "For hundreds of Oxfordshire villages, and dozens of housing estates, buses are the only public transport within walking distance. Treasury austerity is forcing drastic cuts in council services throughout the country and, because of the size of these cuts, Oxfordshire is considering withdrawing all subsidised buses. Cutting them would literally decimate Oxfordshire's bus network and harm our economy and environment. David Cameron wants to spend a fortune dualling six miles of road between Witney and Oxford, but won't give Oxfordshire enough money to continue bus subsidies.”

ENDS

For further information please contact Alice Ridley on 020 7566 6495 / 07984 773 468 or alice.ridley@bettertransport.org.uk

Campaign for Better Transport and Bus Users Oxford will be holding a street stall outside Witney Post Office on Thursday 6 August to raise awareness of bus cuts in Oxfordshire. Media are welcome to come along.

Notes to Editors

1. Local Authority cuts to budgets for supported bus services proposed or agreed in 2015/16:

  • Oxfordshire - £3,600,000
  • Hertfordshire - £1,500,000
  • Isle of Wight - £1,000,000
  • Powys - £500,000
  • Surrey - £840,000
  • Devon - £600,000
  • North Yorkshire - £500,000
  • Wiltshire - £500,000
  • Northumberland - £200,000

2. Buses in crisis: A report on bus funding across England and Wales 2010 - 2015 was published on 12 January 2015 by Campaign for Better Transport based on Freedom of Information requests to all 110 local transport authorities across England and Wales. This is the fourth year that Campaign for Better Transport has monitored the impacts of cuts to supported bus services (those services funded by local authorities) in this way.

3. Oxfordshire County Council is initially proposing to axe the 213, 214 and 215 circular bus services that connect the town centre with Smith’s estate, Madley Park and Cogges estates. However, all the buses that serve Witney are subsidised by the council, so all are under threat.

4. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).

5. Bus Users Oxford is the local brand of Bus Users UK, a non-profit organisation which works on behalf of all bus users.