Suffolk: Rural bus services in county suffer huge cut in subsidies – Labour
PUBLISHED: 08:00 18 April 2014
Subsidies for rural bus services in Suffolk saw some of the biggest cuts in the country over the last four years according to new figures compiled by the Labour Party.
The amount spent supporting uneconomic bus services in the county was cut by half between 2010/11 and 2013/14. Only Northamptonshire with a 55% cut saw a more dramatic reduction in support for its rural buses.
Freedom of information requests by shadow local government minister Hilary Benn found that bus services across shire counties and unitary authorities had seen their grants cut by an average of 23% and 24% respectively.
Shire counties have cut their subsidies by 23% from an average of £5.62million in 2010/11 to £4.34m in 2013/14, while unitary authorities have undergone cuts of 24% from an average of £1.2m in 2010/11 to £0.91m in 2013/14.
In Suffolk the major cuts came in the budget of 2011, but the county council tried to ensure that no communities were left totally cut off from public transport.
Graham Newman has become cabinet member for transport since the cuts were introduced, but said the authority had no alternative but to cut subsidies.
He said “It’s all well and good the Labour party complaining about the reduction in bus subsidies. The sad fact is that Labour left this country bankrupt when they were voted out of power in 2010.
“The Coalition have had to address that issue, and local authority budgets have traditionally been the first call for successive Governments of all political colours when savings have been required.
“But here in Suffolk, we have largely maintained our supported passenger transport network since 2011, and in fact some services have flourished since that time, after becoming commercially operated.
“We have seen the return of some evening and Sunday services, particularly in the Bury St Edmunds area.
“SCC’s passenger transport team have worked hard with operators to produce profitable routes, and where that has not been possible, have introduced services like Demand Responsive Transport and have further supported Community Transport operators.”
Opposition transport spokeswoman Sanda Gage said: “While Suffolk County Council continues to focus on cutting funding rather than subsiding rural bus services, we will continue to read of bus routes being dropped by operators, communities without a regular bus service, and young people unable to get to work placements or training.
“I have recently asked that Graham Newman looks to extend the Endeavour Card age range from 16-19 to 16-24 years and offer it automatically to all apprentices, funded by the council.”