Cabinet discussion over bus subsidy cuts

THE controversial decision by Cambs County Council to phase out all funding for subsidised bus services was discussed at Cabinet in Wisbech on Tuesday.

Members heard from Cllr Susan Vanderven, who presented a petition with more than 450 signatures from people in the Duxford area unhappy with the cuts and the consultation process.

It is not the first time the consultation process has been criticised – a March pensioner presented a petition to MP Steve Barclay in January, asking the council not to make the cuts and slamming the way in which people were told about the proposal.

There is no question of whether the cuts will take place – Cambs County Council had to make massive savings.

Cllr Martin Curtis said: “The status quo is ineffective and unaffordable. What we are doing is putting together an ambitious strategy. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”

Cabinet approved the phased programme of withdrawal, which will take place over three years, gave the go-ahead for a programme to engage with affected communities in advance of the withdrawals and to engage with alternative transport service providers throughout the county.

A fund of £1.5 million has been put aside for the Cambridgeshire Future Transport (CFT) project, which will support the provision of alternative transport solutions.

Cllr Kilian Bourke said: “I think it’s very appropriate that this decision is taking place in Wisbech. Wisbech, like it or not, is an area that has not benefited from the same growth as the rest of the county.

“If Wisbech is to benefit from growth, there needs to be a change in transport here.”

Fenland will be one of the last areas to be affected by the subsidy cuts, as it does not have as many subsidised services compared to the rest of the county.

The council wants to make it clear that just because the funding will be withdrawn, it does not mean bus services will stop running.

Many of the services are commercial and only certain times are affected. However, it is planned to speak with companies to see if an alternative provision could be provided to minimise the impact on residents.

Council leader Cllr Nick Clarke said: “Bus services are dear to the hearts of the public and to us. I ask all of you to put aside the fact that we know people need to get around. We need to move forward with ideas for what’s right for each of the affected areas.”