A national pressure group is warning that Lancashire County Council could be at risk of breaking the law over its planned cuts to bus services.
Bus Users UK says it believes the council could be in breach of Section 63 of the 1985 Transport Act if they go ahead with £7.5m planned cuts to all bus subsidies in the county. The cuts, which will hit rural areas particularly savagely, are part of a savings package aimed at trimming £65m off council spending.
Dawn Badminton-Capps, Director for England at Bus Users said “Under Section 63 of the 1985 Transport Act every council and local authority has a responsibility to provide funding for socially necessary services.”
Urging the public to write to their MPs and councillors in protest she said: “While Lancashire County Council might save money in the short term, they could face huge costs in the long run defending this decision. Even more importantly, they will cause massive disruption and distress to all those people who rely on subsidised bus services to access education, health services, shops, or simply to go about their daily lives.”
But a spokesman for the Council replied: “The council is proposing to maintain services to the most vulnerable by continuing to fund community transport schemes, and is currently exploring alternative models of delivering local transport by offering to provide buses to local communities and to maintain them, and give expert guidance on how they could run their own services.”
He added £500,000 has been allocated for the continuation of community transport schemes and another £1.5m to finance the hoped for new alternative services:
“We’re proposing to continue to provide services within the severe financial constraints being placed on our budget by government cuts and rising demand for services for adult social care services.”
In Ribchester bus operator Holmewsood has decided to cut all services through the village from February 21, fearing staffing difficulties as its drivers seek new work before all subsidies end on April 2.
New campaign group Save Our Buses Ribchester held a drop-in information event at the weekend to share the news, assess how local residents will be affected and urge them to take part in the council’s ongoing public consultation on the cuts. It will hold a follow up meeting on Thursaday at 7.30pm at Ribchester Sports and Social Club.