10% of Oxfordshire buses affected by cuts
In what has been described as a ‘dark day’ for Oxfordshire by the Campaign for Better Transport, the County Council has announced a £2.3m cut in subsidy for bus services. However, the local authority stresses that over 90% of the network in the county runs without subsidy already and will not be affected by the cabinet’s proposals. The 118 subsidised bus services in Oxfordshire make up around 9% of the bus network. It also stresses that some of the subsidised services are just part of a timetable that is otherwise commercial. Other subsidies simply fund a detour to a service that is commercially funded for the bulk of its route, or to a stop at a less well used bus stop.
The cuts are due to come into force during the course of 2016, from Spring onwards. The Council says it is continuing to discuss with operators the prospects for them continuing to run services on a commercial basis. The council has yet to publish a detailed list of the routes and services which will be cut and/or reduced from next year.
Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr David Nimmo Smith, said, ‘As a county council we are faced with very difficult choices. We are now in our sixth year of cuts since 2010. We’ve stopped using more than 100 properties, reduced our staffing by 30% and our senior management by 40% since 2010. We’re sharing services with other councils. We have a legal and moral duty to support the most vulnerable in society – that means adults who are in our care because they need help washing, dressing, eating and other personal care, and children at risk of abuse and neglect. Almost 50% of our budget goes on care services for adults and children. We need to make savings in other areas to fund those vital services. It is really important to understand that more than 90% of bus services in Oxfordshire would be unaffected by these proposals. We’re in the process of saving £290m from 2010 to 2018 and may have to save as much as £50m on top of this.’
Responding to the announcement of the cuts, Martin Abrams from Campaign for Better Transport, said, ‘This is a dark day for bus passengers in Oxfordshire. The county council’s bus cuts are by far the largest announced this year and many of the services and routes which now face the axe will in effect mean the end of public transport altogether for thousands of local people. Now these cuts are hitting his own constituents, it would seem nowhere is safe, so we’re urging the Prime Minister to recognise the vital role buses play in local economies and rural communities and step in to protect the millions of bus users across England and Wales.’