Bus Campaigners save bulk of routes, but Conservatives set on slashing funding to a number of services.
On Tuesday (16th December), members of the cabinet at East Sussex County Council voted unanimously to remove subsidies from a variety of bus services in Hastings and Rother.
Despite this, many of the proposed cuts to routes have been dropped as a result of pressure from the Don’t Stop Our Bus campaign led by Labour parliamentary candidate Sarah Owen and local residents. However, there are still some major cuts that will impact on the lives of local bus users.
Of the 101 subsidised routes, 90 will continue to operate with bus operators agreeing to take on 23 evening and weekend routes on a commercial basis.
The 8 councillors who serve on the Cabinet – all Conservative – chose to ignore the near-7000 Hastings & Rye residents who signed a petition against the cuts. They also chose to disregard the majority decision of a full council vote, which took place at the beginning of the month, where it was proposed that the cuts to services be abandoned.
Sarah Owen said,
“We may have not got everything we wanted, but, on the whole, this is a victory for us. We mustn’t forget that for those affected by the remaining cuts as this is still a massive impact on their lives. I want those people to know that I will continue to fight for a bus service that serves local people, and not the bus companies, and look forward to a Labour Government reversing the deregulation that has caused this.
“However, it has been a real honour to be a part of a positive community campaign, which had the majority of people, our businesses and the protection of our most vulnerable parts of the community at its heart – the only shame is that the Conservatives in East Sussex lacked the ability and backbone to negotiate harder with the bus companies and apply for extra funding for buses from government.”
Cllr John Hodges (Labour’s county transport spokesperson) spoke at the cabinet and proposed alternatives as to how savings could be made by stripping back departments and cutting out inefficiencies.
He told the Cabinet,
“The public said no. The full council said no. I implore the cabinet to renegotiate and don’t just cut and slash. Leave our public services intact for those that depend on them.”
Labour councillors will now seek to call-in this cabinet decision to examine whether the decision was made fairly, took into account the impact on those that may be disproportionately affected and whether all possible options were considered.