Bus campaigners in North Yorkshire step up fight against cuts

Gazette & Herald: Bus campaigner Paul Swain hands over his petition to councillors Lindsay Burr and Elizabeth Shields Bus campaigner Paul Swain hands over his petition to councillors Lindsay Burr and Elizabeth Shields

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save local bus services have taken their protest to county hall.

A petition of almost 500 signatures was presented to officials ahead of a key meeting to discuss cutting subsidies to services.

North Yorkshire County Council has put forward plans to cut £1.1m off the £4.4m it spends each year on subsidised buses in a bid to help make the £77m in savings it needs to find between 2015 and 2019.

A report on the consultation responses will be discussed by a scrutiny committee tomorrow (Thursday), before the council’s executive looks at the issue in January, but services could be in for a reprieve under a revised scheme put forward by the council.

The report says on some routes – including one from Malton to Hutton-le-Hole and Kirkbymoorside – passenger numbers have increased so much that they recommend the service stays the same.

However, there is no confirmed future for the town service in Pickering, and the report still recommends cuts in services between Hovingham and Helmsley.

Regular bus user Paul Swain, from Norton, who initiated the petition to save town services, said: “We do not want to lose our town service. It is a vital lifeline for many people who rely on the bus for hospital and doctor’s appointments, getting to work and school and to catch other buses.

“When there is so much money wasted by councils, it is ridiculous that it is considering cutting something which 45,000 people used last year.”

Paul, who said he and his family have used the service for 18 years, said it is invaluable: “If they cut this service Malton, Norton, Pickering and Helmsley are going to be like ghost towns after Christmas.”

County councillor Elizabeth Shields, who took the petition to County Hall with Mr Swain, said: “The whole matter of providing transport throughout North Yorkshire is in the hands of the officers and the Conservative executive members of the county council. They want to save £4m by cutting all the bus services. There seems to be little or no regard for the effect that these cuts will have on residents with transport needs.”

Fellow county councillor Lindsay Burr, who represents Malton, said: “We are very much hoping that their local petition will be given serious consideration.”

Rob Salkeld, chairman of the Ryedale Forum for Older People, said he understood that the county council needed to make savings, but feared it was going to weigh particularly heavily on older people.

“In my village of 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,” he said.

A further blow to rural transport came in October when the Moorsbus service was stopped due to cash cuts.

A new Government funding package for North York Moors National Park Authority is due to be announced and a spokesman said it hoped to be able to commit some funding to helping disadvantaged people get into the park.

Chris Metcalfe, the county council’s member for passenger transport, said: “More than 20 per cent of people we contacted have responded, and we have had positive responses.”

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