Bus services to be lost as funding is cut

Whitby Bus station for stock
Whitby Bus station for stock

North Yorkshire County Council is planning to cut its bus budget by half a million pounds - meaning services will be lost in some areas.

The authority says the proposal, now open to public consultation, is a “difficult decision” but comes as a result of further decreases in the amount of government funding it gets.

This would reduce the amount the authority spends supporting public transport to £1.5 million a year and while services will be retained, this will lead to a reduction in the number of journeys available in some areas.

The latest round of cuts comes despite the authority last year already having put in place to reduce the amount it spends subsidising bus services by £2 million every year.

That reduction in subsidy was part of the county council’s commitment to reduce its overall expenditure on all services by £92 million to March this year.

However, this latest Government announcement means the county council now has to find a further £74 million by 2019.

This represents a reduction in the council’s spending power in total by about one third - at a time when the demand for the services it provides is continually rising.

The county council has embarked on a pioneering cost reduction programme, known as 2020 North Yorkshire, which requires the county council to be a smaller, more flexible authority supporting local communities to deliver the services they want for themselves.

Cllr Chris Metcalfe, executive member for integrated passenger transport said: “We have to make difficult decisions due to the level of savings we must continue to find across the authority.

“We know that many people are upset by proposals to reduce bus subsidies and we understand their concerns for maintaining access to essential services and maintaining social contact.

“We too have these concerns and that is why we are also putting forward innovative solutions for people to consider.

“We will listen carefully to people’s views during the consultation and we hope to be able to respond positively to address people’s concerns where possible.”

He added that the move had prompted the council to come up with ways to deliver transport services .

The consultation states the county council will provide funding to ensure that every part of North Yorkshire has access to a voluntary community car scheme to enable people in market towns and villages to maintain social access and attend important appointments.

This scheme, where volunteers use their own cars is already successfully in use in a number of places in the county.

There are also a number of services where currently subsidised routes could be covered by the authority’s own fleet of minibuses.

Today the county council operates 65 modern vehicles and some are used to provide 11 local bus services which carry over 500 passengers each day. It is thought that the conventional bus service subsidy might lead to an expansion of the fleet and passenger journeys in this way instead.

North Yorkshire is one of the few authorities to use its own fleet as a solution to bus subsidy reductions and would need communities to put forward volunteer drivers.

Cllr Metcalfe added: “Though we are proposing to reduce subsidies on some routes, we want to work with communities to ensure this does not lead to rural isolation.”