CAMPAIGNERS have reacted angrily to a decision by North Yorkshire County Council to axe bus services, saying many people will lose a vital lifeline.
Yesterday, members of the council’s executive voted unanimously to cuts of £2m a-year despite impassioned campaigns.
About 40 members of the public, many of whom were elderly, attended the meeting to urge councillors to rethink the proposals and vote against the recommendation to approve the cuts.
Daphne Bowes, from Pickering, who went to the meeting by bus, said that the elderly people in the town would be devastated by the decision. “I am extremely disappointed. People will be stranded in their own homes now,” she said.
Mayor of Pickering Sue Cowan urged members of the executive committee to “protect and care for these very vulnerable people”.
She said: “It would allow them to live a healthy life and be able to enjoy their lives and live in their own homes, which for many will be impossible without this transport.”
However, Carl Les, the council’s deputy leader, said the council was under immense pressure to find a further £77m under Government direction to meet the deficit.
“We may be upset by it, we may not like its implications, but as the Government is one of our chief funders, we have to accept it,” he said.
Bus users in Ryedale had previously offered to pay towards their fares but were told that Government legislation would not allow it.
Councillor Clare Wood, who represents Hovingham and Sheriff Hutton, said that with more cuts to come across services, there would be no easy decisions to make. She said: “It is going to impact on all of us in many ways that years ago many of us could not have envisaged.”
In addition to the loss of the Pickering town service, some services in Rosedale, Malton and Helmsley will be reduced to once a week.
Other services, such as the 193 from Norton to the hospital via Peasey Hills, will be cut completely, however talks are continuing to provide the service commercially.
Helen Gundry, chairwoman of Northern Ryedale Public Transport Group, urged councillors to re-invest.
Speaking after the meeting, she said: “I am very disappointed really. I understand it is very difficult to make cuts, but the impact on people right is just tremendous.”
There was a suggestion of a “fall back” scheme for Pickering of a three-day-a-week dial-a-ride service to ensure vulnerable residents are not left stranded.
Councillor John Clark, who represents Pickering, said he had hoped the council would be open to some flexibility. “I fully except that they had to cut bus services, but I had hoped they would leave a small amount to keep those bus services going that only need a small subsidy,” he said.
“In the past I have proposed the council cuts the snow and ice maintenance grant instead so that people would only be isolated for a few days rather than 365 days a week.”
Norton resident Paul Swain, who collected nearly 500 signatures calling for the town service to be saved, said he was extremely disappointed with the council’s decision.
“It seemed to me that everything was cut and dried and all they wanted to do was pat themselves on the back,” he said.
“These people aren’t on this planet and are looking at the world through rose-coloured spectacles, but just wait until the next elections – there are a lot of disgusted voters out there.”
Councillor Elizabeth Shields, county councillor for Norton, said: “This really is very disappointing and a sad decision for hundreds of people both locally in Malton and Norton and also throughout the county.
“North Yorkshire County Council seems intent on hitting the most vulnerable of citizens.
“Not only will many people be deprived of means of using a basic service to visit the doctor, hospital, dentist and shop but also, for many people, deny them the opportunity of meeting friends and relatives in town.
“This is going to deprive a lot of people of any kind of social life which is really quite horrifying.
“I really wish some people on the council would think about the people who they represent.”
Councillor Lindsay Burr, who represents Malton, said she was “sickened” by the decision.
“It is yet again another smack in the teeth for the elderly and vulnerable people who mainly need these buses,” she said.
“People who have no transport of their own are now having their essential life-line cut.”