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Rural bus services in North Yorkshire under threat
CUTS to village bus services could hit some of North Yorkshire’s most vulnerable people and increase rural isolation, campaigners have warned.
The future of many services is under discussion and a crucial report on plans to slash subsidies is due out today.
North Yorkshire County Council has been considering plans to cut subsidies to some of the least-used bus services across the county as well as school buses, and campaigners are now waiting for the final decisions. Voluntary organisations warn cuts could have a devastating impact on the county’s most vulnerable people. The council has put forward plans to cut £1.1million off the £4.4million it spends each year on subsidised buses, in a bid to help make the £77 million in savings it needs to find between 2015 and 2019.
A report on the consultation responses is due to go before a Scrutiny Committee in a week’s time, before the council’s Executive look at the issue in January.
Coun Chris Metcalfe, the council’s executive member for passenger transport, said: “There has been an overwhelming response to the consultation – more than 20 percent of people we contacted have responded – and we have had a lot of positive responses.”
But there are fears any cuts will cut communities off, make travelling to work impossible for car-less rural people, and will have a disproportionately harsh impact on older people.
Rob Salkeld, chairman of the Ryedale Forum for Older People, said: “I can understand that the county council need to make economies, but I fear it is going to weigh particularly heavily on older people who need these services.
“The proposals seem to be for cuts on the less well used services, but for those who do use them they are extremely important.
“In my village – Wintringham – there’s a twice weekly service that could be cut down to once a week on a Saturday. It gets to be pretty useless - you’re never going to be able to see a GP.”
With decisions likely to be announced in the next few weeks, voluntary groups are now getting ready to face the devastating impact cuts may have.
Karen Weaver, from Harrogate and Ripon CVS, said: “We are working with local groups and there are some very good schemes out there operating voluntary driver schemes and so on. There are local groups out there who already provide a level of community transport and they are aware demand is likely to increase and they are looking at how they will cope.
“What is out there at the moment is filling the gaps, but the gaps are getting bigger.”
The problem comes when demands on small local voluntary groups come at the same time as falling levels of support from councils, she added.
“Good local charities are very resourceful and they will do their best to make sure the most vulnerable people do not lose out.”
There are fears any cuts will cut communities off, make travelling to work impossible for car-less rural people, and will have a disproportionately harsh impact on older people.
A further blow to rural transport across the area came this October, when the Moorsbus service serving the North York Moors was closed. A significant cut in the National Park’s funding meant it could not afford to run the network any more, and the decision to close the service was taken in September 2011.
A new government funding package for the park is due to be announced and the Authority’s spokesman said they hope to be able to commit some funding to helping disadvantaged people get into the park, but it will not be via a full network like the Moorsbus.
In November, the CVS published a report into food poverty across North Yorkshire.
As reported by The Press the cost of transport into local towns was already stopping people in need getting emergency food parcels, and the report highlighted cases of people walking miles just to get to a food bank.