LATEST - Council bus cuts announced

A WHOLE wave of bus services are set to have their funding withdrawn under controversial cuts by West Sussex County Council.

The authority this week announced which services were in the firing line as bus subsidies are reduced during the first phase of a three-year plan to cut support for non-commercial routes by £2 million.

The savings are one of a series of proposals designed to save the County Council £79 million following significant grant reductions from central Government.

For a full list of the bus cuts pick up a copy of today’s County Times.

The council’s cabinet member for highways and transport Pieter Montyn said: “Decisions such as these are not easy to make. But we simply have to make these savings and unfortunately some supported services will have their subsidies withdrawn.”

Mr Montyn has confirmed that the first phase of reductions will be staggered in this financial year – the first round in October with further reductions taking effect in January 2012.

Estimated savings per annum for the September and October cuts is £410,000, £260,000 in January and £565,000 being saved with the April 2012 proposals.

The decision has been taken following recommendations made by a ‘cross party’ working group made up of councillors.

The working group has undertaken detailed research into bus subsidies and also considered feedback from organisations and the public gathered during an ‘impact assessment’ earlier this year.

Mr Montyn added: “We received a huge response rate to our impact assessment – nearly 6,000 responses. Many people were asking us for more time so that alternatives and other options could be explored. Where possible we have done our best to offer this and as a result many of the changes in the first phase of reductions will now take effect early next year.

“The removal of a subsidy does not necessarily mean the end of a service. The first round of reductions has shown us that there are other options such as fare increases, a reduced number of buses, or simply the operators finding a way to absorb the cost themselves.”

The county council is actively working with bus companies to look for alternative ways to keep services running. Compass Travel and Sussex Coaches have already pledged to continue to run several services in the Horsham and Worthing areas on a commercial basis.

It is estimated the £2m reduction will affect under ten per cent of bus journeys made in the county - two million bus journeys out of a total of 24 million made every year in West Sussex.

A further decision will be made later this year on the second phase of reductions, due to take effect from April 2012, with a third and final phase due to be implemented in 2013.