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23 AUG


By timesecholife on in Latest News


CONTROVERSIAL plans to axe a string of bus services in the Moorlands will leave people in rural villages ‘isolated and vulnerable’, it was claimed this week.
Bosses at Staffordshire County Council are desperate to reduce subsidies provided to bus operators in a bid to cut costs.
But community leaders insist scrapping key routes will lead to the loss of a vital lifeline in more remote areas and leave sick and elderly people at risk.
They’re now urging residents to write letters, emails and make phone calls in an effort to prompt a U-turn.
The council launched a review last month to plan how best it can utilise a reduced £1.3 million budget for subsidised bus travel.
It revealed a document listing dozens of routes throughout the county to be scrapped and launched a formal consultation exercise due to end on September 17.
A route connecting passengers in Ipstones with Cheadle or Leek is among those set for the chop – leaving parish and district councillor Linda Malyon fuming.
“The changes the county council want to make will leave rural villages like ours completely cut off and it’s absolutely disgraceful,” she said.
“These buses provide a vital link and are the only way that some people can get into town so getting rid of the service rid will leave them isolated and vulnerable.
“It’s like cutting off their only lifeline and it’s a very dangerous thing to do, particularly for the sick or elderly.”
The service, operated by Adderley Green-based D and G Bus, became the only service available to villagers in Ipstones after another, provided by Clowes Coaches, was axed three years ago.
Cllr Malyon added: “Cuts to bus routes have been taking place for a while and it’s rural areas which suffer most because they’re an easy target.
“If there’s no longer any connection to nearby towns, all of these communities will be turned into ghost villages and that’s just appalling.
“What if people who don’t run cars have a doctor’s appointment, how do they even go shopping and what about students who need to make connections to get to college?
“Those on a small pension or who are unpaid can’t afford taxis or any Dial A Bus service, so they’re stuck.”
The council says subsidised routes can cost taxpayers as much as £10 every time a passenger boards a bus – making it vital to make the best use of its budget, particularly as government grants fall to zero in 2020/21.
Cllr Malyon said: “I understand the need to balance the budget, of course, but the council always seems to be putting up taxes and taking services away.
“One of the biggest problems is the amount of money they pay their staff. There are far too many managers in charge of other managers and it’s just not necessary, particularly while they’re slicing and dicing with people’s lives.”
The Blythe Bridge to Longton service operated by First Potteries is among others that look set to be cut alongside school routes servicing Blythe Bridge and Cheadle run by Scragg and Sons and Bennetts Travel.
A Blythe Bridge to Cheadle service was also cut last year, according to parish, district and county councillor Keith Flunder.
He said: “Cutting back on bus provision has a serious effect on some people but some of the subsidies in more rural locations have been getting out of hand and are simply not sustainable.
“The county council has been having to pay for services that would not otherwise exist.
“The whole idea of subsidy-led transport needs to be sorted before it becomes any worse, but people in Blythe Bridge must continue to have public transport links connecting them with towns in the area – otherwise how can the village survive?
“People have suggested public transport could become more commercially-driven and that’s an idea that could perhaps be investigated with county, district, town and parish councils are working together.
“But for now, the county council is faced with a dilemma and there’s no magic wand. That’s why the proposals to reduce subsidies is open to consultation and I would urge everyone likely to be affected to have their say.”
Villagers in Oakamoor have been badly hit by cuts to bus services, according to parish council chairman Phil Charles.
“There used to be quite a few buses that would stop in the village, but the vast majority have now disappeared and it has left people who live here high and dry.
“We seemed to be the first area that was very badly affected and I don’t think there’s much of a service at all anymore.
“The parish council complained bitterly about the changes both at county level and to our MP because it left people cut off and unable to get into town.
“But they said the cost of providing bus routes to Oakamoor couldn’t be justified and there was nothing that could be done.”
The council says too few people use services to rural areas and that simply not enough income is generated to cover costs.
It says proposals are based on the actual cost of the subsidy per passenger journey, numbers of passengers and locations, alternative transport options and the need to prioritise employment, education and health journeys where possible.
Mark Deaville, cabinet member for transport, said: “The county council must deliver the best value it can from the budget it has.
“The challenge has always been how best to spend the money set aside for bus subsidies in a way that it can least affect the most vulnerable people in the county.
“There’s no getting around the fact that some people will be affected by these latest changes because low passenger numbers and low revenue is not sustainable.
“But many local authorities have backed out of providing subsidising journeys and we’re continuing to spend £1.3 million on funding such concessions from April 2018.”
All of the comments gathered from the eight-week consultation process will be taken on board and final decisions are expected in November.
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