Over 1200 local residents in the Lune Valley who will be affected by Lancashire County Council's proposal to cut 72 evening bus and weekend services across the County have signed a petition opposing the plans.
The petition will be presented to County Councillor Susie Charles at a public meeting at Caton Victoria Institute at 7.00pm on Monday 3rd February, and the proposals to cut bus services will be discussed at a County Council meeting to agree the county's budget on 20th February.
While this petition is aimed at users of buses in the Lune Valley, the proposals - part of the County Council's plan to cope with £300 million in funding cuts by central government - have been met with fierce opposition.
As we previously reported, the Labour-run County Council says the proposed cuts will save £3.8m over the next two years by withdrawing subsidies which enable the services to operate - but the cuts will affect most of the villages and outlying council estates in the Lancaster area.
Campaigners argue the plan is a false economy which will unfairly hit the 15% of rural dwellers in the County without access to a car, such as night workers and both elderly and young bus users alike.
Bus services to Freehold, the Ridge the Marsh and Vale estates in Lancaster and Skerton, Heysham, Morecambe, Carnforth, Hest Bank Railway Station, Bolton-le-Sands and Overton are among those that would be lost if the plan goes ahead.
Labour councillors argue they have no choice but to make the cuts (and prospective parliamentary candidate Amina Lone has set up her own petitions to protest at them to local MPs Eric Ollerenshaw and David Morris).
Opponents of the Council's cuts plan argue the entire system of bus subsidy is flawed and in part, the bus companies could be seen as being unaccountable for the services they run.
Others point to the plans of other councils such as Tyne & Wear and Hertfordshire, who are planning to put their bus services out to competitive tender and shake up the whole process by which bus services are run.
"Many people are saying what a big impact these cuts will have on people's ability to get to work as well as have the freedom to go out if they don't own a car," says campaigner Ursula Gallie, who set up the Lune Valley petition and has appeared on local TV to talk about the issue. "The hardest hit will be the elderly, the young and those who can't afford to run a car."
" Fariha Quraishi
"Eric Pickles, David Morris and this Tory Government have imposed a 40% cut of over £300 million on our local council," counters Amina Lone, who is asking the Government to reverse its funding cuts. "The local council, faced with impossible choices between transport, social care, education and the environment have nowhere to turn and now vital transport services to rural communities are at risk."
Four-fifths of bus services in Lancashire are run by private companies such as Stagecoach on a commercial basis because they are profitable. The remaining 20 per cent are not commercially viable and are currently subsidised by some £8 million annually by the county council. The proposal suggests that subsides be withdrawn from 72 evening and Sunday services from 18th May 2014, but would continue to 103 bus services which operate during the day.
However, each subsidy would be reviewed on a case by case basis when its current contract expires to ensure it remains sustainable.
Any withdrawals will take place during the middle of 2014 so for the meantime all these services are continuing to run as normal.
• Save Lune Valley Buses Petition
• Save Lune Valley Buses Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/saveLuneVillagerbuses
• virtual-lancaster: Campaign to save local night buses as fury mounts over Labour-led County Council's bus cut plans
• Lancaster Guardian article: "I'll be trapped in my home"