Proposed cuts to rural bus routes in West Norfolk voted down

Alexandra Kemp
Alexandra Kemp
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Councillors voted to stop budget cuts to bus subsidies and gritting routes after they were warned communities could be ‘set back decades’.

Members of Norfolk County Council’s Environment, Development and Transport (EDT) committee voted down the proposals on Friday.

More than 1,100 people responded to a public consultation on the bus issue, which would see a reduction in support for services by £500,000, and more than 600 responses on the gritting proposals, which would see a saving of £200,000.

On voting the proposals down, Martin Wilby, chairman of the EDT committee, said: “Having had time to digest the findings of the consultation, we were overwhelmed by the number of people who responded to the gritting and bus subsidy budget proposals.

“It demonstrated just how important these two services are to the people of Norfolk and goes to show just how vital consultation really is if we are going to listen to residents and do what’s right for them.

Mr Wilby said the authority knew that the proposals had the potential to be unpopular with residents, but it was their “duty to explore all options” in order to meet the budget shortfall.

“When the government announced that we could increase council tax by a further one per cent we were keen to use some of this additional money to maintain funding for buses and gritting, as we know what these services mean to local people,” he added.

“We also know that reducing these services could have a negative impact on Norfolk residents, especially those who are already quite isolated.

“We are really pleased to have found a solution to keep these services going at their current capacity.

“We only have a limited amount of money so it’s important that we use what we’ve got to do what’s best for the people of Norfolk.”

Reports published ahead of the meeting show most comments opposed the idea of cuts to buses, raising issues ranging from social isolation to the environmental impact of extra cars using the roads.

One person who responded to the bus proposals said: “We must not return to the mess of the 1980s when services were a waste of time.”

The plans are part of the council’s budget proposals for 2018/19.

A statement on the council’s website says: “Even though we are proposing to increase council tax next year, the amount of money we hope to raise wouldn’t be enough to balance our budget.

“This means we have to make some difficult decisions about how we spend our money. Since 2011 we have saved £334m. However, we now need to save a further £125m by 2021.”

The proposals will now be heard by the policy and resources committee, before being discussed and decided on by full council.

Alexandra Kemp, who represents Clenchwarton and South Lynn on Norfolk County Council, said: “I am pleased to hear that the committee voted not to recommend any cuts to road gritting and the buses.

“If you are driving on a road and suddenly it’s not gritted when it has been before, or you expect it to be, it’s a danger. I hope it will be approved by full council.”