SUFFOLK should plough more money into innovative schemes to help rural communities hit by cuts to bus services, it’s been claimed.

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Figures released by the Campaign for Better Transport show Suffolk County Council (SCC) cut or withdrew 41 bus services in 2011/12.

The transport charity warned buses were vital to communities and that cuts risk tipping services into a “spiral of decline”.

But SCC said unless something disastrous happened it would not cut funding for bus services any further - it currently stands at around £2million-a-year.

Wil Gibson, of Suffolk Acre, which works improve the lives of those in rural Suffolk, said transport was a key concern. He called for Suffolk County Council to give more support to a scheme piloted by the charity that sees rural people loaned mopeds to get to-and-from work.

Dr Gibson said: “I think what we’d like to see is a mixed portfolio of support. That would mean less subsidy for the traditional bus routes, expansion of demand response transport and more support for one area that has been proven in Suffolk, the moped scheme.

“A lot of rural people work in the care or leisure industries and they finish late. The traditional bus route might not fit anyway but the moped scheme is a means of helping people access employment or training, until they can afford their own wheels.

“That’s not the panacea of everything but if you can offer a portfolio you can meet people’s needs much better.”

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport said: “Buses are vital to communities and the economy. Without them many people are isolated, unable to access jobs or reliant on the car. By making year-on-year cuts like these, we run a very real risk of tipping services into a spiral of decline.”

Councillor Guy McGregor, cabinet member for roads and transport at SCC, said: “We took our hit a couple of years ago and unless something disastrous happens we’ll maintain the current level of funding.

“We’re going to be announcing in the new year a range of support for younger people. We keen to support Wil’s idea, he’s pushing at an open door.”

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