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Saturday, 20 September 2014

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Ending Ulverston bus subsidies set to have ‘massive’ impact

COMMUNITIES will be robbed of a lifeline unless an urgent solution to bus service cuts is found.

Conservative Ulverston county councillor James Airey has said an end to subsidised bus routes in Cumbria will have “a massive impact” on Ulverston and the surrounding area.

As part of the council’s budget agreed in February, the £1.9m annual budget for bus subsidies was cut completely.

Under the original plan, subsidies would have stopped altogether at the start of the new financial year at the beginning of April. But the council put aside a one-off sum of £1m to ease the transition and buy extra time for alternative funding to be found.

The county council is asking bus companies running commercially viable routes to continue to provide the service without subsidies. Where this is not possible the council has suggested community solutions such as voluntary car initiatives, mutual owned minibuses and dial-a-ride schemes.

Despite these efforts, Cllr Airey said some of Ulverston’s vital bus routes could be severely cut or disappear.

He said: “I’m afraid council initiatives like Rural Wheels don’t have the capacity to cope and the transition to a community service is not going to happen overnight, it’s going to take time. Because the cost of living is horrendous, not everyone nowadays can afford a car. I’m really disappointed the council cut the £1.9m subsidy for bus services. It is the only lifeline for many of our villages.

“This is really part of the budget that was brought forward by the Labour and Liberal coalition at county hall that I voted against because this is going to have a massive impact on the local area.”

Among the routes that could be affected are the number 11 coast road service and the 60 and 70 Ulverston buses.

Ulverston’s Labour county councillor Mark Wilson said: “In a perfect world we would have the perfect bus service but, sadly, buses are not given the status of a statutory necessity, so in short that means the county council doesn't have to provide them. Being a rural council we do recognise the importance of a bus service.”

Both councillors have agreed to work together to ensure residents are not left isolated once the subsidy money runs out.

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