New consultation to be held on cuts to bus services totalling £1.5 million
- Credit: Archant
Councillors have voted to reconsult the public on proposed cuts to bus services – now totalling £1.5 million – after widespread opposition.
Members of a highways committee met at County Hall today to discuss the proposed £700,000 cuts to bus services that would affect many routes in Stevenage and North Herts.
The committee decided to recommend a further consultation to Herts County Council’s cabinet meeting on December 15 that would propose a cut in subsidies of £1.5m from the service, affecting 119 routes.
The three options the panel recommended were withdrawing funding from subsidised services after 7.30pm from Monday to Saturdays, stop funding from subsidised services that operate on Sundays – except for routes that directly serve hospitals up to 7.30pm – or limit the amount of subsidy per passenger journey across all affected services.
If cabinet approves the recommendations it is likely that a consultation will launch in January 2015.
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Councillor Terry Douris, responsible for highways at the county council, said: “Thank you to everyone who responded to the consultation, signed petitions and wrote to us – this information has been helpful in shaping revised options for some of the 119 bus services that are subsidised by the county council.
“Based on the feedback we have received, the revised options we are now proposing for consultation include a later cut off point for subsidised services, protection where possible for routes that directly serve hospitals and establishing a limit of funding to be made available for supporting local bus services.
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“Despite having already made some savings, the funding gap remains an ongoing challenge. The proposals for a further consultation will enable us to make informed decisions about how to make the savings needed in the future.
“We will have to make some difficult decisions in the months and years ahead, but we have to prioritise how we spend our money to deliver the services that are most needed and we have to do this within our existing budgets.”
The county council does not run bus services – it currently subsidises a number of bus companies to provide services which are not used enough to make them commercially viable. It was these services – 119 in total across the county – that were the focus of the consultation, to which 4,548 residents responded.
Over the last four years, the county council has had to make savings totalling £149m across the council. Due to further reductions in funding, the council needs to save a further £147m over the next four years.