Cuts to community buses to go ahead

Shadow minister for transport Daniel Zeichner joined Labour Party members opposed to cuts to Communi

Shadow minister for transport Daniel Zeichner joined Labour Party members opposed to cuts to Community Transport budgets. - Credit: Archant

Funding cuts to Suffolk’s community transport service are to go ahead after an opposition motion seeking to reverse the changes was defeated at a full meeting of the authority.

The changes will see the cost of community transport cut by half – but many users fear they will be left with a poorer service.

A petition organised by the Labour Party called for the changes, which will see the council’s fleet of minibuses sold off, to be reversed.

It led to a motion at the full meeting of the county council which was defeated by 35 votes to 31.

Labour transport spokeswoman Sandra Gage said: “The severe 50% cut and the sale of the Council’s fleet of minibuses will cause bus routes to disappear and people of all ages in rural areas to struggle and suffer. I am deeply saddened by the result of this vote.” She warned many communities could see their transport links disappear when the changes are brought in.

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The petition presented to the council was organised by community transport user Jess Evans.

She said “I’m young and I’ve never been able to learn how to drive a car – due to poor eyesight – so I rely on Community Transport, as it gets me places at difficult times, often plugging the gap left by commercial public transport.

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“I got involved with this campaign because community transport is integral to me being able to do my work. The claims that these changes will improve the service, make it more accessible to young people, all while cutting it by 50% are just unbelievable to me.”

However cabinet member for transport James Finch insisted the changes would improve services for people in rural areas.

He said existing community schemes had built up as “sticking plaster” solutions to specific problems which often did not relate to the wider transport network.

“With this new scheme it will be organised on a district-wide basis and should provide a much more consistent and better service for users.

“This is the case of the council getting more for less. Community transport users will not lose out because of these changes.”

The changes will be introduced from June 23 with new operators recently selected.

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