Transport chiefs at Staffordshire County Council have been accused of being “economical with the truth” after withdrawing the financial support needed to sustain ‘vital’ bus routes.
Newcastle’s Labour MP Paul Farrelly said communities were facing increased isolation with many routes and timetables axed in the face of severe budget savings imposed by the Council.
“Even residents living in urban areas, like Bradwell, Knutton and the Westlands, risk being left stranded, unable to get into town for important services such as medical appointments,” Mr Farrelly warned.
“In rural villages, like Audley, the impact has been devastating for some people. Many can’t afford a car or taxi and rely on the bus to get to work and back. They are now having to walk for part of the way, then catch several buses and leave work early to get home.
“Local bus companies are struggling in a tough economic climate and are being forced to make cuts because subsidies that were once used to keep vital services going have been withdrawn.”
Now Mr Farrelly has written to Mark Winnington, the portfolio holder for Transport at the County Council, urging him to disclose the true extent of financial cutbacks to the budget used to subsidise unviable bus routes.
In his letter Mr Farrelly said statements issued by the Council were “misleading and disingenuous” by failing to disclose an accurate picture of the scale of cuts to the commercial bus network across Staffordshire.
“The County are telling me they currently invest £2 million in subsiding bus journeys, but then admit that this funding has been taken into account as part of the bigger exercise of balancing the Authority’s books. So what is the true level of subsidy?
“The public deserves to know how much has actually been cut and which routes and timetables have been withdrawn, altered or axed completely. The rhetoric they are currently using to explain away these cuts is disappointing, misleading and frankly disingenuous. They are being economical with the truth,” he added.
Last year Mr Farrelly met bus chiefs at First to assess the likely level of cuts to the bus network and has now followed this up by writing to D&G Bus seeking a meeting with them to see what can be done to sustain routes.