Friday, 20 January 2012

Lib Dems Victory As Tories U-Turn On Bus Cuts – But Fears For Future

Cllr Van de Ven

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats are celebrating victory after the Tories staged a dramatic U-turn over their decision to axe 100 per cent of bus subsidies across the county.

Lib Dems, who had fought a sustained campaign against the cuts for a year, have welcomed the move to invest £1.5 million – just over half the bus subsidies cash – into newly organized public transport.

The money will be handed over the next three years to provide new forms of transport through a one-year old project called Cambridgeshire Future Transport

But Lib Dems have expressed their concerns about Cambridgeshire Future Transport which has a poor track record so far.

Cambridgeshire Future Transport project has already suffered its first failure after an expenditure of £120,000 toward a pilot service in Duxford, launched before Christmas, was boycotted by residents in protest at the prospect of losing their subsidised buses.
Lib Dems have called for a commitment to continue the financial support to existing bus services, if it is needed, to ensure that vulnerable and isolated residents are not left stranded.

Lib Dem County Council Shadow Cabinet Member for Transport, Susan van de Ven said:  "This partial U-turn is a big victory for the Lib Dems and good news for local bus users.  The Tories have finally relented and accepted the principle that you cannot provide socially necessary rural transport for nothing.

“Abating 50 per cent of the cuts is a big improvement on the 100 per cent cut that was planned, which was the worst in the country.

"This will allow some of the bus services the Tories still intend to cut to be replaced with some form of alternative; it is just a shame they didn't listen to the public's concern and reinstate more of the funding.

 “We are extremely concerned that Cambridgeshire Future Transport is not the best way to deliver these services; in one year it has delivered almost nothing.

“Money spent on the failed pilot in Duxford could have paid for three new mini buses for Cambridge Dial-a-Ride or other established community transport providers.  Cambridgeshire cannot afford to play games with lifeline transport and scarce public money.”

A recent consultation by Cambridgeshire County Council on bus subsidies showed that 37 per cent of residents have no other means of transport and only three per cent of residents supported bus service cuts.