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Council boss taken to task over bus proposals

Malvern Editorial 21st Jan, 2014 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

THE COUNTY council’s localism chief was taken to task by residents who voiced their last-ditch fears at the possibility of losing their bus services.

Coun Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, faced questions from concerned bus users during two public meetings at the Octagon, last Wednesday (January 15).

The Malvern councillor had to fend off accusations the council was targeting the poor, had already made up its mind about removing £3million worth of bus subsidy funding and was axing its own staff while leading officers earned sky-high salaries.

One elderly resident, capturing the fears of many in attendance, said: “Has the council thought about the impact it is going to have on us? How are we going to see our friends? A lot of us live on our own. This is not healthy.”

In response Coun Hodgson said tough decisions needed to be made and if the council did not make these savings it might have to take more drastic measures such as closing children’s centres.

“I have never seen anything as dreadful as things are at the moment. This is not what I came to politics for.

“We are in difficult times. Local authorities across the country have less money to spend.

“Following the chancellor’s statement in the summer the financial situation became much worse.

“The council made the decision to retain the road network to a reasonable standard and that costs money.

“We have had to look at different ways of delivering services and look at what we chose to do and stop doing certain things.”

Around 40 residents as well as town and district councillors from Malvern attended the two sessions, with many mainly concerned for the threat to the 41, 42 and 43 routes.

Coun Hodgson declared the 43 was one of the most heavily subsidised routes in the county, costing about £350,000-a-year although admitted it was well-used.

West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin has also expressed her concern over the removal of subsidies, particularly to routes in Upton-upon-Severn which offer a lifeline to college students and school pupils.

She urged the council to relax licences to allow alternative suppliers to take on the services.

“I was particularly concerned that some school pupils will be adversely affected by these changes if they need to travel to Worcester Sixth Form College.

“I am also concerned that changes may affect residents in West Malvern and Malvern Wells who could lose vital links to train stations and major bus routes.

“Some passengers have suggested that they may be willing to pay a little more for bus connections.

“Where the county council subsidy may be removed, there are opportunities for private operators or voluntary groups to run replacement services.”

More than 8,500 people submitted views to the public consultation which ended on Friday (January 17).

The council is set to analyse the responses and prepare a report to be discussed by the cabinet on February 6.

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