Hundreds rally to save bus services in Lewes

Hundreds attended the bus rally in Lewes
Hundreds attended the bus rally in Lewes
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More than 300 people announced their love for the county’s buses at a rally in Lewes on Saturday and a big red bus was handed to the county council.

Residents turned out from across the western part of East Sussex to meet in the Cliffe precinct for the grand Love Your Bus Rally.

Speakers explained how East Sussex County Council could cut bus services, leaving many rural areas with a service just two days a week.

They said the council planned to raise fares by 30 per cent on all the services it supported.

Concerns have been raised about any cuts and fare increases through meetings and rallies.

In the eastern part of the county a petition of more than 7,000 signatures was raised and a large number of people have responded to the council’s consultation.

Lewes Stop the Cuts complaind the council cabinet system meant the future of the bus services would be decided by a small committee of councillors, all from the Conservative Party, even though this party does not have a majority.

Speaker Chris Smith said: “Council officers and members will be deciding what size of cuts they can get away with.

“We know they have not put a penny of their profits from car parking schemes to supporting the buses, even though this alone would save nearly half of the £1.8 million that they want to save.

“We know they have wasted £56million of council tax payers’ money on the Bexhill Link Road and we know they have not applied for government funding that is available.

“There is no excuse for this price hike and service cut.

“This rally reminds them they cannot sneak it through without anyone noticing.”

Many bus users have disabilities but about half the rally attenders marched to County Hall to formally present a big red bus to the council, accepted by cllr Ruth O’Keeffe.

A further rally will lobby the council at its cabinet meeting on December 16 and other activities are being planned.

Final proposals will be made to East Sussex County Council’s cabinet on 16th December.

East Sussex County Council said all councillors have the opportunity to speak at cabinet and lead member meetings but were not able to vote.

“Like all other authorities across the country, the council is having to make significant savings necessitated by cuts in Government funding and face difficult decisions in order to achieve this,” it said.

The proposed changes to subsidised bus services could save the council £1.79million between 2014/15 and 2015/16.

The county council said feedback had been received from residents, organisations, MPs and councils and would be taken into account. with the Equality Impact Assessment.

A county council spokesperson said: “The draft proposals provide peak time access to education and employment, and would ensure that over 95 per cent of current passenger would still have access to a service six days a week. Around 91 per cent of all current bus would be unaffected.” If approved changes would be made from March 2015.