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County Council in U-turn over plans to ditch bus subsidies

Malvern Editorial 13th Feb, 2014 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

COUNCIL bosses have u-turned on plans to completely remove funding for bus services following a wave of protest.

Worcestershire County Council has signalled its intention to continue to subsidise some services with £1.1million being made available to support the move.

In November last year the council announced it would be cutting the £3million it currently spends on bus subsidy, leaving almost 100 services at risk of the axe as part of efforts to save more than £98million up until 2017.

But the plan met with huge opposition with more than 8,500 people responding to a public consultation on the proposal.

Concerns raised included the fact it could leave people unable to get to shops, work or school with the future of some even being put at risk. There were also fears it would lead to an increase in social isolation and make it difficult for people to get to GP or hospital appointments. There were also warnings it could lead to less local bus operators, reducing competition and driving up prices.

As a result all subsidised services will now be reviewed to establish which ones are deemed key to ensure access to schools, jobs, healthcare and shops.

Talks will also be held with bus companies to see which can be run commercially, potentially with a rise in fares, which would be unsustainable if subsidy was substantially reduced and what role there is for community and voluntary transport.

Coun John Smith OBE, responsible for highways on the county council, said: “We’ve consistently said due to the financial challenges there’s no easy answers when it comes tough issues like this but, importantly, we stressed the public’s views would be taken into account, which is what is happening.”

Coun Tom Wells, who represents Powick, welcomed the news and commended residents who attended public meetings he had arranged to discuss the issue in Welland, Hanley Swan and Callow End.

He said: “I am breathing slightly easier today. Some of those services are a vital lifeline for many people young and old.

“I heard stories that young people would not be able to get to college and elderly residents would not be able to do their weekly shop.

“There were some appalling implications.”

Coun Wells added he had delivered more than 500 responses raising concerns about the potential loss of the 363 route and described the latest council decision as a victory for consultation.

“There were huge numbers of people who come to the meetings and filled in consultations.

“If that had not of been the case I am not entirely sure we would have got the same result.”

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