Lincolnshire County County’s opposition councillors have reacted with dismay over reports that vital bus services are set to be slashed next month, despite assurances from the council that bus subsidies would not be cut following a late cash injection from central government.
UKIP leader at the county council, Coun Colin Mair, has accused the authority of “betraying” the public, and said: “Everyone knows what was said last month, but the council is already going back on its words. It’s like Pontius Pilate all over again.
“They said that the extra £1.7 million meant there would be no cuts, but three weeks on, look what’s happening.
“I know it’s only certain routes, but just watch what happens. We’ll be talking county-wide cuts.”
Lincolnshire’s Labour Party have also released a statement today (March 11) condemning the move, after reductions in bus services in the Louth and Horncastle areas were confirmed.
Coun Sarah Dodds (Louth North) said: “We’ve got to get the county council to rethink on this.
“It is not right that after promising to protect buses in the council chamber, the Tories have taken the first opportunity they have to cut them.
“It is worrying not only for Louth, but also for the county.
“Are they going to cut all of the Lincolnshire bus network by stealth as each contract comes up for renewal?”
She added: “The Louth community fought really hard to get the Nipper and it is a much used, valued and loved service. The Louth-Horncastle route is a vital contributor to the health of our market town economy. Both must be saved.”
This afternoon, Coun Richard Davies, executive member for highways and transportation, said: “The additional funding of £5.2m that we received from government in February has enabled the county council to make a commitment to continue to deliver a public transport service across the whole of the county. It also enabled us to protect winter maintenance and children’s centres budgets.
“We recognise that rural bus services are important to keep people connected, and without that extra funding, we would have lost over 100 subsidised bus services across Lincolnshire.
“We have to ensure that the budget is managed in a way that ensures value for money for the taxpayers of Lincolnshire. With regard to the public transport budget we have around 180 fixed route contracts costing in excess of £3m with a number of operators which are negotiated or tendered for on a regular basis. Any contract is subject to market forces such as the level of competition, cost increases and changes in the commercial bus network.
“Some of those bus service contracts have increased by 40-50%, and this is therefore likely to lead to reductions in the numbers of bus services that can be delivered. We’re continuing to work with bus operators to ensure we can make better use of services, that they are meeting people’s needs, and to avoid seeing empty buses travelling around the county.
“We are also looking at making better use of transport services for schools and adult social care.”