Axe is hovering over ‘lifeline’ bus services

Burnley pensioners Ken Knight, Patrick Ingle, Jean Whalley, Janet Ingle and Jean Knight who are protesting over the proposed cuts to the local bus service.
Burnley pensioners Ken Knight, Patrick Ingle, Jean Whalley, Janet Ingle and Jean Knight who are protesting over the proposed cuts to the local bus service.

Elderly and disabled people said they will be left totally isolated if “lifeline” bus routes are axed as the town’s MP warned Burnley’s public services are being “cut to the bone.”

Bus routes across town, which are subsidised by Lancashire County Council, are set to be stopped as the authority bids to save £65m. over the next two years.

Pensioners Mary Stuttard and Doreen Howarth who are angry over the proposed to their 'lifeline' bus service.

Pensioners Mary Stuttard and Doreen Howarth who are angry over the proposed to their 'lifeline' bus service.

The proposals are part of wider plans to tackle a massive funding gap of £262m. by April 2020.

But residents living in the Clifton Farm and Crow Wood Avenue area of Burnley, who catch the number 65 service, slammed the cuts as “disgusting” and said the move would leave them totally isolated.

Mrs Mary Stuttard (80), of Crow Wood Avenue, said: “That bus service is a lifeline round here, a lot of people use it. It’s like a little community on the bus, everybody knows one another.

“The people who use it are elderly and some of them haven’t got families so it’s the only way they can get out to the shops, to the hospital or to see friends. It’s very quiet down here and in winter you don’t see anybody. I’ve been ill and I went into town the other day to go to Marks and Spencers. I got a taxi and it cost me £7 there and back. I think it’s disgusting.”

MP Julie Cooper said with the axe hovering over libraries, transport, museums and community centres, the unprecedented cuts would be felt by people across Burnley.

The Clifton Farm bus service is just one of several across the town which is under threat. The number 95 which serves the Kibble Bank area is also facing the axe along with the service which runs through the Stoops Estate, the 26 and 27 service, which runs from Burnley to Clitheroe via Padiham and Sabden, and the 152 from Preston to Burnley via Blackburn.

Mr Patrick Ingle (74), who lives near Clifton Farm, said residents would have to walk up the hill to Padiham Road or to Westgate to the nearest bus stop if the number 65 is stopped.

“Some of the people struggle to get to the bus stop as it is. If the bus service is stopped they will just be housebound. They will be completely isolated.”

Another resident, who lives in Crow Wood Court sheltered accommodation complex, added: “Without a bus we would be trapped in our flats. Losing the bus would be losing a lifeline.”

Mrs Cooper said she was “hugely worried” by the proposed cuts and said she has been contacted by dozens of concerned residents.

“Some of the bus companies have put notices on the buses saying they will finish in February but this is not the case. The funding subsidies are coming to an end in April.”

“The elderly are at the top of the list when it comes to the effects of this. There are also workers who rely on buses to get to work and schoolchildren who use them. I think it’s a bit rich for the Government to talk about social isolation and the burden on the NHS when this is going to affect the elderly.”

Mrs Cooper said she would be meeting with representatives from County Hall and the bus companies to try and find a solution.

“There’s a way forward I’m sure and I think we’ll find it. This is a top priority for me and I will be fighting it all the way. We are really cut to the bone now with cuts to services and it is starting to hurt.”