Hertfordshire Conservatives are under fire for going back on a pledge made two years ago not to cut bus routes again after they proposed a further reduction in funding that will bring the total cuts to a total of £1.5m.
At the HCC Highways and Waste Panel the Conservatives voted through a budget cut of £200,000 in the coming financial year, rising to £700,000 in a full year from 2015. This will reduce the current budget subsidy for bus routes from £3.9m to £3.2m. Two years ago the Conservatives cut £800,000 from this budget – axing half a dozen routes and reducing others to very limited hours. At the time the then Conservative Cabinet Member responsible for Highways (Stuart Pile) said no further reductions would be made.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader and Highways spokesperson, Stephen Giles-Medhurst, (Central Watford and Oxhey) said, “This cut will mean a full year 32% reduction in the money available to support bus services in just three years. It one of the biggest cuts, if not the biggest, that the Conservatives are making to any one service. It was clear in the meeting that Conservatives had decided in advance to ignore any concerns about vulnerable, elderly and those living in rural communities being isolated if services were lost. The Conservatives had made up their minds and they were going to cut this budget without even knowing what routes are being closed down.”
The cut was buried the budget papers with just four words of text supporting it! Despite repeated questioning from myself and fellow Lib Dem Malcolm Cowan (Handside and Peartree) officers could not tell anyone which services would go or be reduced but that there would be a “serious effect” on the services.” , said Stephen Giles-Medhurst.
“Frankly this is a disgrace and an insult to residents and councillors alike that the Conservatives will not be honest with us and tell us with services will go or be reduced. I had expected then to live up to their promise not to cut this area further, after all there is a core council policy of trying it get more people out of their cars on to public transport and this will do the opposite. Instead of cutting this they could have cut money from their £3m plus publicity budget or saved some of the £7m they have wasted on securing empty properties.”, said Stephen.