Councillors vote against bus cuts in East Sussex

The rally outside County Hall in Lewes
The rally outside County Hall in Lewes

Controversial cuts in bus services proposed by East Sussex County Council were rejected by the full council although the cabinet will have the final say.

At Tuesday’s full council meeting, they voted overwhelmingly for a motion which ‘rejects proposals to significantly reduce the level of financial support that facilitates a number of bus services that operate to serve everyday life in an acceptable manner across many parts of East Sussex’.

But this vote does not save threatened services - a full debate on the issue by the full council in East Sussex was triggered by a petition against service changes totalling more than 5,000 signatures.

The ultimate decision will be made by county council’s cabinet which faces agonising decisions concerning cutbacks to services prompted by the need to slash about £90million from the annual budget.

Cabinet systems of local government are operated around the country.

At the meeting amendments were proposed which would have diluted or nullified the motion but councillors were having none of it.

Lewes representative Ruth O’Keeffe summed up the mood when she said that there was only one motion she could vote for.

Council members spoke passionately about problems of loneliness and isolation faced by their most vulnerable residents. They criticised the council for not applying for central government money available for bus services and pointed out that bus usage is rising across the county despite the lack of publicity.

The motion was carried 25 votes to 21 (three councillors did not attend the meeting).

All Conservatives present (19) voted against the motion along with cllr Earl (independent) and cllr Howson (UKIP).

All others: Labour, Liberal Democrats, Independent Democrats, Independent councillors and UKIP – voted for the motion.

Love Your Bus spokesperson Chris Smith said: “The county council operates a cabinet system.

“Final decisions are often taken not by a full council but by a small group of council members - the cabinet. We think they should be bound by the full council decision.

“The cabinet meets on December 16. No cabinet members represent the area around Lewes and I fear that they may try to limit local criticism by saving buses in their area at the expense of places like Lewes and Hastings.”

The campaign called on supporters to ask their cabinet members to vote against the cuts.