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Keep the Bus Services Going

January 4, 2018 2:36 PM

Norfolk bus

At the Council's Environment, Development and Transport Committee meeting on 20 October 2017 one of the proposed budgets cuts was to review the operation of bus services supported by the County Council. The proposed cut was £500K in 2018/19.

The report stated that "The County Council supports a range of local bus services through either providing a subsidy (£1.3m in 2017/18) or through grants to community Transport Operators. We will review to ensure that our support is targeted to delivering the most effective service."

What is the overall bus services budget for this year?

£3.1 million. The local bus budget is £2.75 million. In addition to this, there is approximately £400K of grant funding allocated to various types of community orientated transport schemes across Norfolk. The Dial-a-Ride Schemes operated by Community Transport providers account for approximately £250,000 of this sum.

What constitutes this budget - i.e. how much goes to commercial operators and how much goes to community bus providers?

Approximately £540,000 of the £2.75 million is allocated to contracts operated by Community Transport Schemes, the remaining amount is allocated to commercial transport providers.

How much is provided by each of the District Councils to the County Council for the provision of bus services and what is this money spent on?

£2400 provided by South Norfolk District Council per annum, which is to support the South Norfolk and Wymondham Flexibus.

Details - what details?

So which routes will be cut? No details have been forthcoming but in deciding which routes to cut the Council will use the following crtieria:

They will assess the geographical need, and other factors based on rural deprivation. They will also take into consideration the following:

Who is using the services?

  • The number of users on a particular route
  • Levels of income of those who use the route
  • Levels of car ownership within the area of the route
  • The age range of people within the area of the route
  • The proportion of residents on the route who may be experiencing difficult social conditions

The impact of changes to routes

  • Availability of alternative transport, i.e. rail, other bus or community based transport services ,
  • Does the route offer journeys to work or education?
  • Is the route used by many older or disabled people?
  • Can we reduce the frequency, rather than the whole service?

Other considerations:

  • Will the bus operator be able to run the service without the council's financial support?
  • Is renegotiation around cost of services possible?
  • Is replacement of services with a "Demand Responsive" or "Feeder" arrangement possible e.g. involving Community Transport providers?
  • Value for Money, comparing cost of service with passenger usage
  • Could we raise fares?
  • Could we reduce the service on Sundays and evening's services, when usage is much lower?

Furthermore, the council will be looking to:

1) protect core services that operate Monday to Saturday and therefore Sundays and evening services that are subsidised will be more at risk.

2) remove and amend some urban and town services where alternatives exist. The alternatives being walking, cycling, (including walking further to other bus services) dial-a-ride or taxis available to access local services.

3) go through all contracts to see what funding we can remove, i.e. reducing frequencies and times of operation.

Why are rural bus services so important?

Rural bus services provide a lifeline for rural communities, creating vital routes of connection to other parts of the county. For anyone who struggles to drive themselves because of age or a disability, or because they do not have a car, buses are often the only means of transport that connects rural residents with work, friends and family. With an increasing number of local services cut from rural towns and larger villages, the need to be able to connect with urban areas only increases.

According to Age UK, 40% of people aged 60 or over use local bus services at least once a week, and around a quarter of these journeys are for medical appointments. When Age UK interviewed elderly residents of rural villages near Durham and Northampton, they found that cuts to rural bus services had severely inhibited their ability to socialise and participate in community life, limited their access to healthcare and left them significantly poorer owing to the higher costs of alternative forms of transport.

Frequent bus use is most common among unskilled workers and, in general, 35% of commuters with no car use the bus to get to work, and 43% of these have no alternative transport.

If bus services in rural areas are reduced to the point of making them unfeasible, many families will be unable to live in or contribute to their communities. The effect on the job market is marked and decreases the likelihood of job/worker matches, making it harder for firms to employ skilled staff. The likelihood of an individual being able to find another job if they lose their current one is decreased, with a resultant increase in the risk of economic inactivity to individuals with no other form of transport. A survey undertaken by the University of Leeds shows a decrease in the likelihood of an individual being able to access a better job, with almost half of its sample who used a bus to commute to work saying they felt that a better bus service would give them access to a better job.

The State Of Rural Services 2016 - Local Buses and Community Transport report by rural England http://discover.pjb.co.uk/index.php/2016/10/10/state-rural-services-2016-local-buses-community-transport/

States that "In rural areas the number of passengers using local buses grew in the years prior to 2008/09. That number then stayed fairly constant for a few years, before declining somewhat by 2014/15. This reversal of the trend coincides with bus service reductions."

In Good Company

Norfolk County Council are currently running a campaign (January 2018) called in good company that's says no one should spend a lonely day in Norfolk if they don't want to.

The Council says that "thousands of people in Norfolk are lonely. Loneliness can cause poor health and even lead to premature death. It can make people vulnerable to scams and fraud and increase their reliance on public services.

But we also know that alleviating loneliness can help people lead independent, happier and healthier lives, for longer."

The Council refers to a wealth of events, services and volunteering opportunities being run by hundreds of organisations across Norfolk and are encouraging people to get involved in these opportunities.

A reduction in rural bus services would negate the effect of this campaign.

Liberal Democrat View

The In Good Company campaign is excellent and is addressing an important issue for so many in Norfolk. But yet again it is left hand and right hand at County Hall doing different things that hurt each other. Bearing in mind that a key element for this campaign is people aged 60 or over how are they able to get to all these events when there is no bus service?

The bus service in the rural parts of the county is already inadequate yet the Conservative administration want to make it even worse. They all can afford to use cars what about those people who can't afford to or are unable to do so?

It comes to fairness in the end do you want to do what is right for all the people across Norfolk or just those who already have?

Liberal Democrats fundamentally believe in the right of all people to live their life to the fullest. it would be disgraceful if any member of the community was no longer able to get to work or their place of education as a direct result of cuts to bus subsidies by this Council.

Liberal Democrats will oppose this budget cut. It affects our communities particularly the rural ones so heavily for a small amount of budget where a saving elsewhere can easily be found.