Council cuts to risk rural bus services

According to research by the Campaign for Better Transport, cuts to council budgets could result in a reduction to subsidies for rural bus routes.

The research found that funding had been reduced by £78 million since 2010, with another £27m set to be cut from transport budgets. Councils have maintained that ‘difficult decisions’ have to be made amid government cuts.

The campaign group highlights that people in Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Somerset, Dorset, West Berkshire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, North Yorkshire and Lancashire are likely to be worst affected. In particular, Oxfordshire County Council is looking to cut more than 100 routes, in a bid to save nearly £4 million.

Martin Abrams, from the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "Up and down the country utterly devastating cuts are now being inflicted on our vital bus services on a par with the swingeing and misguided cuts the government and Dr Beeching made to our rail network which decimated services back in the 1960s."

Whilst, bus services are overseen by the Department for Transport (DfT), funding decisions are made by the local authorities.

Andrew Jones, Minister for Transport, said: "The government protected around £250m of funding for bus services in England, provided through the Bus Service Operators Grant, as part of last year's Spending Review. We are also developing measures in the upcoming Buses Bill so local authorities can deliver improved bus services."

Jones argued that ministers had provided £7.6 million in support for 37 local transport schemes in rural areas, while over 300 charities and community groups across England would benefit from new minibuses through a £25 million fund.

Peter Box, the Local Government Association's (LGA) transport spokesman, said: ”Councils know how important buses are for their communities and local economies and are desperate to protect them. Instead, many across the country are reluctantly taking difficult decisions to scale back services and review subsidised routes as a result."