Cuts in funding threaten bus services

BUS services across North Hertfordshire could be reduced if councillors agree to cut funding. At the moment the district council and Hertfordshire County Council subsidise a number of bus services across North Hertfordshire. The district council pays 25 p

BUS services across North Hertfordshire could be reduced if councillors agree to cut funding.

At the moment the district council and Hertfordshire County Council subsidise a number of bus services across North Hertfordshire.

The district council pays 25 per cent of the cost and the county council pays the remaining 75 per cent.

However, in a report outlining its budget proposals for the next financial year, starting in April, the district council plans to remove its funding which is likely to have the following impact on the subsidised services:


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* Rural services will become less frequent and/or combined

* Reduced frequency in the Hitchin to Luton service

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* A reduction in evening services

* A reduction in Sunday services

* Evening and Sunday services into Bedfordshire could also be reduced.

The proposals, which will be discussed at tonight's (Thursday) full council meeting, state that the council would save almost £600,000 over the next five years.

It is likely that individual services will be withdrawn rather than complete bus routes being taken off.

A spokesman for the district council said: "We are intending to remove our 25 per cent of funding and the county council will then negotiate with the bus operators to provide the best services with the remaining money."

In addition to the proposed funding cuts for buses, the district council is also planning to scrap the Dial-a-Ride service it currently funds to provide a service to elderly and disabled users.

At the moment there are two Dial-a-Ride buses operating in Comet country, one paid for by the district council and the second by the county council.

The district council is planning to cut its funding and therefore reduce the service to just one bus, paid for by the county council.

There are currently about 50 Dial-a-Ride trips run each week and the council says it realises one bus may not be able to take care of all of these journeys.

Another announcement in the council's budget proposals is that the price of residents' parking permits is set to rise again, this time by 33 per cent from £39 to £52.

This latest rise means that the price of a permit has doubled in two years, from £26 in 2005/06.

The latest price hike has angered the Triangle Residents Against the Parking Scheme, situated in the Triangle area of Hitchin.

A spokesman for the group, John Brown, of Florence Street, said: "This is a massive increase and comes on top of last year's 50 per cent rise.

"Residents have no control over costs; they may as well hand their cheque books over to the council and let them take whatever they want."

A spokesman for the council said the increase was intended to reduce the subsidy the council has to pay on the permits, which equated to over £73 per parking permit during the current financial year.

The spokesman said: "It is our policy to try to reduce the subsidy on these permits and although this increase doesn't reduce it completely, it's on the way to doing so. "This increase was signalled a year ago when we lifted the price from £26 to £39 - that was always going to be a step to £52.

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