Get all the most important news and events to your inbox.
Protect our independence - donate now
Our non-for-profit, independent community journalism is produced by volunteers and survives thanks to your regular contributions.
Labour councillors are calling for further debate on changes to bus subsidies in Lichfield and Burntwood.
Staffordshire County Council will withdraw funding for some routes after a public consultation on how best to spend the money used to underpin services deemed unprofitable by operators.
The council insisted the option would “safeguard most journeys”, but Labour have now called in the decision for further scrutiny.
Cllr Sue Woodward, Labour group leader, said the controlling Conservative group had not fully considered how some communities might be hit by the demise of some local bus services.
“There has, as yet, been insufficient research into opportunities to develop community-based transport schemes which may help to mitigate the impact of the withdrawal of subsidised services,” Cllr Woodward said in a letter outlining her reason for the call in of the Cabinet decision.
“These will take time to develop and subsidies should not be withdrawn until alternatives are in place, including transport schemes run by other public or private organisations such as hospitals, parish councils, supermarkets, schools and colleges.
“In spite of the Cabinet member’s commitment to accommodate ‘the most vulnerable’ residents, as expressed at the Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee, I am concerned about the impact of those who are just about managing to maintain their independence without reliance on care support but who may become more isolated without these bus services and in need of public services.
“The longer-term financial pressures do not appear to have been fully recognised.”
Cllr Mark Deaville said 96% of journeys would still be able to be made after the changes are implemented – and said discussions would take place with other organisations in a bid to support those communities that could lose services.
“While the vast majority of bus journeys in Staffordshire are made without any subsidy from the county council, some journeys are still costing taxpayers more than £10 every time someone gets on board and this is certainly not the best use of the public purse.” he said.
“Like all councils we do have to live within our means and when we need to spend a record £300m on care this year alone, it is important that we work with the budget we have available.
“The option we have chosen means the most trips can still be made at the lowest average cost to taxpayers.
“In cases where journeys will no longer be subsidised, such as the Dial-A-Ride, we want to work with local bus operators, local councils and communities to see which are the most important to them and look at helping them explore other options for funding.”
But Cllr Woodward insisted a greater examination of the impact of any changes needed to take place.
“The effect of the withdrawal of bus services on small local businesses in more rural areas – pubs, post offices, village stores – has not been taken fully into account or researched.
“The concerns raised at the Select Committee about where volunteers will be found, including volunteers willing to take on lead roles, was not relayed to the Cabinet. Indeed, a number of the concerns raised by the Select Committee during its scrutiny of the proposals were not fully reported to Cabinet.”