Hertfordshire Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Stephen Giles-Medhurst (Central Watford and Oxhey), has lambasted the ruling Conservatives at County Hall for proposing bus cuts when council papers just released now show the savings have already been made.
On 16th July the County Council put forward a public consultation saying that “the county council is committed to saving at least £700k from the annual bus budget of £3.8m by April 2015”. In order to achieve this the Conservatives proposed in the consultation to cease bus routes after 6.30pm and on a Sunday, affecting as many as 809,000 trips a year.
Now in papers made available to councillors officers have told them that “efficiencies in excess of £700,000 have been achieved in the current financial year and in 2015/16 and 2016/17 through a mixture of underspends and contributions.” No cuts to routes have been made so far this year.
The county council has admitted to Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst that it is already a projecting underspend of £322,000 in the bus budget as at September.
“I am disgusted that the Conservatives at County Hall have not owned up till now that not only have they already made a saving for next year, but that they will underspend the bus budget this year. This must have been known months ago, yet they have put tens of thousands of residents, who have signed our petitions against bus cuts, through unnecessary worry and upset about losing their lifeline service.
“They, and the rest of us, need an apology from the Tories and an assurance that options for cuts still being sought by the Tories, as reported in the County Council Horizon magazine, will now be dropped.
“ I have written to Terry Douris demanding that he drop the idea of any bus cuts now. His arbitrary financial saving figure has been met. Now is the time to look at how we can improve bus services and increase passenger usage not cut it.”, demanded Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst.
The Liberal Democrat Group Leader, who has been spearheading a campaign against the proposed cuts alongside bus users, pointed out that only 30 people of the 4548 that responded to the official consultation supported the proposed cuts and that now well over 10,000 had signed petitions against the cuts.
A decision on the cuts is expected on the 4th November at the Highways Panel.