Bus cuts go ahead in East Sussex in the face of widespread opposition

Bus cuts went ahead.
Bus cuts went ahead.

Bus services will be reduced by East Sussex County Council despite overwhelming public opposition after the cabinet voted to forge ahead with cuts.

East Sussex County Council decided to approve proposed cuts to bus services at its cabinet meeting today (Tuesday December 16) when thousands of people objected to the controversial proposals.

But the county council argued it had to make savings due to Government cut backs.

A petition against the proposals topped 5,000 signatures which triggered a debate by the full council.

The Conservative cabinet voted for the bus cuts despite the full council voting against this move and in the face of a petition of more than 6,000 signatures.

Love Your Bus campaigner Chris Smith said: “It is no wonder many people do not vote when they see that most of the people they elect have no power.

“This decision discredits local government and the members of the cabinet that took it.”

However the county council has said the cabinet system is used up and down the country and is not unusual.

The council said the revised supported bus network would safeguard 90 services and save the taxpayer £1.88m.

It argued the proposals would protect peak services, those relied upon by students travelling to school or college and residents needing to access essential services.

The changes, which come into effect from April, will leave 91 per cent of passengers unaffected while 96 per cent will still have access to a six-day-a-week service.

Only seven off-peak services will be reduced to two days a week, and two to three days a week.

A total of 23 previously subsidised services will run as commercial routes.

Members of the cabinet also approved an increase in adult and child fares across the supported bus network.

Subject to discussions with bus operators, daily fares could increase by up to 30 per cent and the cost of a weekly ticket on a supported bus could increase by up to £3.

Lead member for transport and environment cllr Carl Maynard said: “I want to assure residents in East Sussex that we have listened to the feedback from the consultation and the views of the full council.

“We have the unenviable task of finding millions of pounds worth of savings and have to review every service to ensure our limited budget is being used in the most effective way.

“We felt the proposals brought to cabinet, amended in response to public feedback, minimised the impact of changes on the residents of East Sussex and offer best value for money for all taxpayers.”

Dial-a-Ride services which currently receive financial support from the council will continue to receive funding to provide at least a three day-a-week service, and school services to Heathfield, Ringmer and Uplands Colleges will now continue to operate.

The Love Your Bus Campaign said two services would have their frequency reduced from half hourly to hourly, 13 services would have their daytime services reduced from hourly to two hourly, nine services will be cut so that they will have their service reduced to a two or three days a week and nine evening or weekend services will be cut altogether.

Mr Smith explained because fare rises were going to be so high some operators decided that they could make a profit running a limited service without subsidy.

He said with return fares for a journey of eight miles going up from around £4.80 to £6.20 large numbers of people will be forced to stop riding on buses.

The Love Your Bus campaign will continue to campaign against service cuts and also against the proposed fare rises. The rises have not yet been finalised.

To find out which services will change visit http://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/yourcouncil/about/committees/meetingpapers/cabinet/2014/16december.htm