Conservative run Herts County Council has decided to cut a further £1.47m from its bus budget. This will mean a dozen bus routes will cease to exist, others will only run up to 7.30pm, and just a few that serve hospitals will run on a Sunday (but again only up to 7.30pm).
The Conservatives voted by 42 votes to 30 to push through the bus cuts, despite condemnation by the NHS Trusts, bus operators and the public.
NHS Trusts said clearly that the 7.30pm cut off time was wrong and asked the County Council to maintain routes servicing hospitals until regular visiting times had finished. This has been totally ignored and the Tories had not even bothered to find out how many passenger trips would be affected. Well its over 700,000!
As Liberal Democrats we have campaign long and hard against these cuts from the so called “consultation” last year – ignored – to the latest one this year – also ignored. 20,000 people signed ours and other groups petitions against the cuts.
However when it came to vote not a single iota of compassion has come from the Conservatives. The second consultation showed that 70 per cent were against the cuts proposals. 90 per cent of those that responded were bus users and 53 per cent are over 55 years old.
None of that has been recognised. Quite frankly, this is a black day for the County Council and a black day for public transport.
The Conservatives are effectively saying they do not care about public transport. They have not listened to the bus operators, who are saying these cuts are wrong. One bus company told the Council: “Very disappointed proposed savings are now double that of previous consultation despite the opposing responses. and went on to say: “Cuts impact on people going to and from work; many are on low pay and/or young.”
In the period of 5 years the Tories at County Hall have now cut the supported bus budget from £7.1m to £2.4m – the highest level of cut of any service and one that will clearly affect the most vulnerable in society, the elderly and the poor. It’s nothing short of a scandal.
The Liberal Democrats will continue to remind county hall Tories that once again they have let down people in Stevenage and across Hertfordshire. We hope when the next county elections come around residents will remember this!