FEARS have been raised that elderly people in Ryedale will be left isolated and “staring at the wallpaper” after councillors refused to rethink the decision to cut £2m from bus subsidies.
On Friday, members of North Yorkshire County Council’s transport, economy and environment committee voted not to back calls to bring the decision back in front of a full council or executive committee.
The decision, made last month at an executive council meeting, will affect 11 bus services across the area, with Pickering losing its bus service completely. Other services, such as Cropton, will be reduced from twice a week to once a week when the cuts start to take effect from April.
Councillor John Clark, who was one of seven councillors who urged the county council to take action against the decision, said he fears elderly people will become isolated.
“There were a lot of members of the public saying that it was disgusting and there are concerns for people as they become isolated,” he said. “They will now just have to stay at home and say, ‘well that’s that’ and stare at the wallpaper for the next six months.”
Coun Clark asked the county council to consider putting some money aside for a fund to help protect bus services in areas where they were being lost completely – but said that council officials would not go for the idea.
He said: “We were only asking for a small amount of money to be put aside to make it work where it normally wouldn’t. There is nothing there to protect buses where they can’t quite be run commercially.”
Previous concerns have been raised regarding elderly people being left vulnerable with no transport to attend vital and potentially lifesaving hospital appointments.
At Friday’s meeting, executive member for public transport Chris Metcalfe was eager to stress that the council was not getting rid of bus services completely and that elderly people would have help to get to hospital if necessary.
He said: “We are reducing services, not withdrawing them. There seems to be a message that we are in a doomsday scenario.
“Roads choked up, feral kids running all over the place, people not being able to access the Dales – the reality is 80 per cent of transport provided in the county is by a commercial business.”
Suggestions were originally made to allow pensioners to pay towards their bus fares, with a significant amount of bus users from across Ryedale backing these suggestions.
Seven county councillors, led by Richmond councillor Stuart Parsons, said no evidence had been provided to ruling councillors about the likely impact of the cuts on vital services.
He said: “I’m spitting feathers and I think a council tax strike could now be an idea to launch action against the council.”
Ryedale MP Anne McIntosh secured a debate about the cuts in Parliament and spoke in the House of Commons on Monday.
She said that although she acknowledged the county council was facing a difficult time, rural residents should be able to pay towards their bus pass.
“The proposed reduction of bus services is causing great anxiety, particularly among elderly and less mobile passengers,” she said.
“I believe that the way forward is to put concessionary travel by bus on the same legal footing as travel by rail. That would allow concessionary travel to continue, but enable those who wish to avail themselves of the concessionary fares to pay a contribution.
“I welcome the fact the county council’s scrutiny committee took the opportunity to review its decision and I understand that a task force will be set up to look at the cuts that have been agreed— £1.7m from a total budget of £4.4m.”