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Buses campaign group attacks "inconceivable" cuts
A BUSES campaign group has today hit out at Worcestershire County Council's plans to axe £3 million off public transport - calling it "inconceivable".
Bus Users UK says the controversial bid to slash funding for 88 services across the county will increase isolation, worsen social hardship and cut people off from "essential services".
The body's deputy chief executive Stephen Morris has revealed Bus Users UK got involved in a now-closed public consultation which attracted a record 8,500 responses.
The organisation has also claimed the cuts breach the 1985 Transport Act, but the council has told your Worcester News it is confident the saga will not result in costly legal battles.
Mr Morris said: "If these cuts were to be fully implemented, many communities across Kidderminster, Droitwich, Redditch and even parts of Worcester would be cut off from essential services.
"The 1985 Transport Act places a clear responsibility on local authorities to provide transport for socially necessary services.
"Withdrawing bus subsidies across the whole county would leave many villages, even a number of larger towns, with no public transport at all.
"This would inevitably lead to increased social isolation among people already living in areas that are struggling economically.
"It is inconceivable that such sweeping cuts to subsidies in an area like Worcestershire, with its mix of rural communities and pockets of urban deprivation, will do anything but add to levels of social hardship."
Under the cuts, first revealed by your Worcester News in November, the council's entire £3 million-a-year subsidy for public transport will end in September.
Talks are ongoing with operators on the threatened routes about saving some by putting up fares, reducing service frequency, or both.
Services that cannot be made fully commercial face the chop unless community groups agree to take them over.
The funding withdrawal also means Worcester's two park and rides at Sixways and Perdiswell need to be made profitable or will end.
A report is due out within days to update the council's Conservative cabinet on what progress is being made.
The cuts will help plug some of the £103 million that needs to be slashed off budgets by 2018, largely due to falls in Government funding.
Councillor John Smith, cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: "The lawyers will crawl all over whatever we do to ensure it meets legal obligations.
"We will be assured that whatever happens there won't be an opportunity for a judicial review or claims (lost) under the act.
"We're aware of the difficulties these cuts will give people and will do whatever we can to find solutions - lots of people in the consultation said 'we don't want buses cut' but we don't either."
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