Thursday, 12 December 2013

County consults on latest round of Bus Cuts; Dial-A-Ride gets boost

Carnforth Connect Service
(withdrawn in 2012)
Due to budget pressures Lancashire County Council is proposing to reduce overall support for buses to focus on maintaining services during the daytime and ensure the county's most vulnerable people can access public transport.

People are being asked for their views on plans to save £3.8m over two years which would see funding withdrawn for evening and Sunday services that currently receive council subsidies to allow them to operate.

The proposals are being consulted on as part of the council's budget for 2014, as it confronts an unprecedented financial challenge, needing to save £300m over the next four years due to central government cuts. The county council's budget will be decided at a meeting of the Full Council on 20 February 2014.

In addition, the council proposes to invest a further £500,000 in dial-a-ride services to ensure community transport providers have the capacity to cater for those most in need.

80% of bus services in Lancashire are run by private companies on a commercial basis because they are profitable. The remaining 20% are not commercially viable and are currently subsidised by around £8m from the county council each year.

The proposal would see subsides withdrawn from 72 evening and Sunday services from 18 May 2014.

Subsidies would continue to 103 bus services which operate during the day, but each would be reviewed on a case by case basis when its current contract expires to ensure it remains sustainable.

County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "We would never have chosen to be in this financial situation but have to find ways to drastically reduce our budget due to cuts imposed by central government.

"Our first priority is to safeguard the most vulnerable members of our society but to achieve this we have to look at everything we do and propose some difficult solutions.

"The county council spends around £8m each year subsidising bus travel. This proposal would maintain the bulk of that spending, while saving £1.8m next year and £2m a year after that, by focusing on subsidising routes during the day, when they are most used by people going about their business - getting to work or medical appointments and doing their shopping.

"We have also proposed an additional £500,000 investment in community transport such as dial-a-ride services to ensure that support is focused on those with the greatest need and where the public transport network is particularly limited.

"I'm fully aware that the withdrawal of any bus service would have an impact upon the people who use it. These are proposals at this stage and no decision will be taken without carefully considering the results of this consultation."

No future support for abandoned commercial routes
Another proposal which features as part of the consultation is a change to the council's policy on public transport. Currently the council considers whether it can step in to support a service when a commercial bus company withdraws a route – usually because it is not considered profitable. The new policy would make it clear the council could not do this in future.

You can view the consultation documents and the full list of services affected at
http://www3.lancashire.gov.uk/corporate/consultation/responses/response.asp?ID=225
and respond on the website.
You can also email responses to lcc.bus.services@lancashire.gov.uk
or by post to Bus and Supported Transport Manager, Lancashire County Council, Room D3, PO Box 100, County Hall, Preston, PR1 0LD.
The closing date for responses is Friday 10 January 2014.

No comments: