3 June 2010
In what could be a foreshadowing of local transport spending cuts to come, campaigners today warned that local services like those in Wiltshire are under threat – despite providing ‘outsized benefits’ to the community.
Campaign for Better Transport has criticised Wiltshire Council’s decision to cut its funding for the evening Taxibuzz service, which links Devizes with nearby villages.
The organisation says the decision is ‘not smart’ and that it raises questions about the local Conservative council’s policy.
Cat Hobbs, public transport campaigner, said:
‘Cuts are inevitable, but these cuts are not smart. Councils must ensure they protect the most vulnerable, and make the best choices they can. Cutting TaxiBuzz fails on both fronts. It’s a great example of an inexpensive service providing outsized benefits, and cutting it will cost Wiltshire dearly. Many people rely on this service to return from work, many will be stuck at home in the evening or forced to drive.’
Transport campaigners claim the Council is using out of date information to defend its decision.
Wiltshire says the cost of the service is £50,000 a year (last year’s cost) when in fact it has been driven down to £25,000 by the operator. At the current rate of usage this works out at £4.50 per ride - not £10 as the Council claims. (1) The Council describes the Taxibuzz as an experiment – yet fails to mention that it replaced an established evening bus service, which is no longer running.
Campaign for Better Transport called on the Council to run the service more efficiently and boost passenger numbers by promoting it. (2) The Taxibuzz service is not marketed but passenger numbers have been growing nonetheless.
The organisation also pointed out that Wiltshire Council’s approach is inconsistent with Conservative national policy. The Conservatives have committed to piloting taxibuses as a good solution in rural areas. This decision by a Conservative-led Council is an example of a local authority taking a different approach.
Notes to editors:
(1) The up to date figures are from transport campaigning group Association of Kennet Passengers.
(2) A report by Association of Kennet Passengers, commissioned by Wiltshire Council, identifies additional efficiency savings that could be made without cutting a frontline service by reorganising the Connect2Wiltshire services and getting better value from contracts.
(3) Wiltshire’s bus cut is part of a programme of 3% saving of £187,000 for the current year. Cuts in other services have not been announced.