Bus cuts: How democratic is this Cabinet system?

The Love your bus campaign run by Lewes Stop the Cuts and featured in the Sussex Express, on the radio and on TV over the past few weeks had a fantastic result on 2 December when the full county council voted to recommend rejection of the proposed cuts and fare increases for 2015.

Unfortunately this is not the end of the matter because under the Cabinet system operated by the county council the final decision will be taken by eight councillors all of whom are Conservatives. Is this democratic?

This week the result of the consultation with the public about the cuts and fare increases was published together with the council’s response to this. The majority of residents who responded to the survey were opposed to the cut in frequency of services and 50 percent of respondents were against the fare increases.

The council’s response makes a false claim that 91 percent of passengers would be unaffected yet I have received a freedom of information reply that says 87 percent would not be subject to any change. This means that 13 percent would be affected and this equates to 2.7 million passengers in a year.

The proposals by the Conservatives aim to save it £1.79 million next year. The report to the Cabinet suggests that the cuts will result in a gross loss to the economy of £990,000 through fewer shopping trips and a loss of £740,000 through cuts to staffing. Although some of the loss will be recovered through other shopping trips the figures demonstrate that to cut services would be nonsensical even on financial terms. If the profit of £800,000 from parking fees were put towards supporting the buses then the proposals look even more half baked.

The unelected Director of Communities, Economy and Transport has ignored the results of the survey, ignored the evidence of the figures and recommended that the cabinet go ahead with the original plan.

Lewes Stop the Cuts campaigns against cuts because they adversely affect the most vulnerable in society but even in financial terms this is a flawed proposal. The testimonies we have received from passengers demonstrate the distress and fear of isolation that will result from the cuts.

If you believe in democracy and don’t want to see these cuts go ahead despite the will of the Council and the public then come to County Hall on 16 December at 9.30 am and let the cabinet members know how you feel.

Tony Rowell