Council approves bus cuts that will have ‘devastating’ effect on users in Stevenage and north Herts
- Credit: Archant
Controversial cuts to bus services which campaigners say will have a devastating impact on passengers in Stevenage and North Herts have been approved.
Councillors at Herts County Council approved the decision to cut the amount paid to bus companies each year to run certain services by £1.471 million by 42 votes to 30 at a cabinet meeting yesterday.
This means from September the county council will no longer subsidise routes running after 7.30pm from Monday to Saturday and on Sundays unless they directly serve hospitals in which case they will be funded up to 7.30pm.
“I think it was inevitable,” said Terry Figg, a campaigner with Save Our Buses who lives in the Chells area of Stevenage.
“The council obviously wasn’t going to change its minds and now the consequences are going to be quite dire for bus users.”
Before being passed, County Hall held two consultations on the proposals where they asked thousands of people for their views.
The authority said these were taken into consideration before a decision was made, something Mr Figg disputes.
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“People rejected these cuts in their thousands but they didn’t listen,” he said. “We’ll carry on campaigning against them and expect a lot more reaction from people when they are introduced in September.”
In total 11 petitions opposing the cuts were launched and signed by more than 9,000 people.
All the Lib Dem and Labour councillors voted against the motion at the meeting but were outnumbered by the Conservative majority.
Stevenage county councillor Sharon Taylor is Labour’s spokesman on transport in Herts and had her own petition against the plans.
She said: “It will really severely affect people.
“They have not listened at all to the consultations. There was a very strong response from people in Herts but they just ploughed ahead and completely ignored them.”
Lib Dem councillor Robin Parker said: “It is also important to remember that the Tories not only increased the HCC share of the council tax from April by 1.99%, but in recent years have also enforced a street light switch off, neglected road maintenance and from October 31 will also be stopping the mobile Library service.”
Terry Douris is responsible for highways at the council and said: “We appreciate that if agreed, this will impact on a number of passenger journeys made each year in Hertfordshire. We will continue to work hard with bus operators, community transport groups and the voluntary sector to consider the available alternative transport options for older and vulnerable bus users, but the fact is that the county council is under financial pressure that we can no longer use taxpayers’ money to subsidise bus services at the current level.
“Herts County Council has to make significant financial savings and we have to balance the needs of bus users alongside all the other demand for the services we provide.”