Friday, 27 July 2012

Rural transport cuts were unnecessary

The huge heartache resulting from the coalition government’s cut back on funding for rural buses in 2011-12 was unnecessary. 
That’s the view of the all-party Commons Transport Committee after it was announced that the Department for Transport has ended up with a £543 million under spend that is being handed back to the Treasury. It’s a figure that is believed to exceed the total reduction for the whole of the English bus industry over the 12-month period.
No wonder then that Louise Ellman, the committee’s chairwoman said: “This is quite extraordinary. The department got its sums wrong and the cuts to bus services did not need to happen.” 
The Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside backed her colleague’s call for expenditure on transport to be spent on transport and not handed back to Chancellor George Gideon Oliver Osborne. Fat chance, and now further cuts to rural bus services will continue to Break Britain in 2012-13.  
It was in October 2010, that the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition cut local council budgets by 28 percent, with a reduction in spending of 7.1 percent in local government funding each year until 2014. In a drive to save money, local councils have slashed budgets with subsidised public transport routes taking a real pounding. 
Conservative Cambridgeshire County Council simply ended its £2.7 million funding for subsidised buses and although this led to a successful Judicial Review - undertaken by Milton village resident Jo Green who needs her local bus for transporting her son to hospital – only £1 million is now available to fund ‘Cambridgeshire Future Transport’, a project that will draw heavily on volunteer involvement.
In rural Norfolk, the cuts meant 31 buses were withdrawn or had their schedule’s cut. In Cumbria the figure was 16 such that according to Helton resident Edith Edwards “Any visit to Penrith, our nearest town, is now Saturday’s only. In the rural community we have very few services of any kind and this cut is unfair and divisive.”
According to Lancashire Campaign for Better Transport supporter, Aidan Bishop-Turner the cuts in the County’s bus services, especially on a Sunday, means “inevitably there are no services on Bank Holidays so that potential tourist destinations are inaccessible on days when local businesses are looking to boost their incomes.” He’d like to see European Union subsidies given to large landowners to set aside land redirected into supporting local services such as public transport. 
If the loss of over 1,000 bus services nationally in 2011-12 isn’t bad enough then more are on their way. The Bus Service Operators Grant refunds some of the fuel duty incurred by operators. It’s being cut by over 20% by 2015. Higher fares are certain, making then unaffordable for many people.
In the Vale of Glamorgan, 27% grant cuts this year mean seven services are to be axed. Further north, in Anglesey a petition is aiming to stop the intended destruction of 34 services. 
In Scotland even a rural bus service, for the elderly and disabled, that is largely staffed by volunteers is threatened, Moray Council being able to donate only half the £30,000 funds needed to keep the service running. 
Users fear it won’t be sufficient.  
Aidan Bishop Turner is also worried and he sees “Cuts in rural transport being linked to the degeneration of the rural economy which is apparent from the closure of post offices, clinics, shops, pubs, schools and other services.” DON”T BREAK BRITAIN. 

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