Isolation fear over bus budget cuts proposal

Norfolk County Hall.
Norfolk County Hall.

Plans to cut bus subsidies will increase social isolation and undermine economic growth, a West Norfolk councillor has warned.

Norfolk County Council budget proposals, which are currently being consulted upon, could see the amount of money given to community transport schemes cut by as much as £500,000.

But, this week, the authority backed plans to commit another £19 million towards the budget for the new Northern Distributor Road around Norwich.

And Alexandra Kemp told Monday’s full county council meeting that showed County Hall’s priorities.

She said the government, should cover the shortfall in the road’s budget and the fact the authority was doing so meant it was not providing core services, like local transport, properly.

She said: “We’re here to run things like the buses.”

But council leader Cliff Jordan said: “It’s a good road. It’ll build bridges to the whole of Norfolk. Let’s get on with it.”

A consultation paper published on the county council’s website says it currently spends more than £3 million a year on bus subsidies and community transport grants.

The paper continues: “We want to look at whether we could get better value for money without there being a noticeable impact on 
passengers.

“However, it is likely that we would need to prioritise which services we continue to support in order to save some of this money.”

But Miss Kemp fears her Clenchwarton and Lynn South division could be hit particularly hard by any changes to routes caused by a loss of funding.

She told councillors: “It will cause chaos. It will cause isolation and loneliness and hinder economic progress.”

The meeting also heard that more than 1,300 people had so far taken part in the public consultation on the county council’s budget, which closes on January 2.

Further details can be found at www.norfolk.gov.uk or by emailing HaveYourSay@norfolk.gov.uk.