There has been much public comment recently about the County Council’s plan to withdraw financial support of Ipswich Park and Ride. Its announcement in November was part of how the Tory Council believes it can make a further £74 million cuts. On top of the £170 million already cut (the council calls this ‘savings’) in the last four years.
Public does not agree, and rightly so. The current Ipswich Park and Ride five year contract was awarded in November 2013. Ipswich buses successfully won the contract with an offer that has already saved the County Council £100,000 per year compared to the previous contract. With new buses and reliable services: regular users from across Suffolk have been quick to ask why this service has to go. As have Ipswich Labour Councillors at both the Borough and County Councils.
And that’s not all. At the same time further cuts to rural buses are planned by the County Council. Cutting rural bus subsidies year on year since 2011, Council subsidies were around £4 million but are about to be cut to a frankly unsustainable, £750,000 for the whole of Suffolk. Collectively these cuts to our rural and urban buses will force people to fill our towns AND villages with their own cars to get to work, the shops or college as bus services disappear. Those without cars will be isolated without the means to live independently. We know that it is impossible to make all bus routes financially viable, but cutting them cuts the thread that links our communities together, making it possible to maintain independent lives as well as being environmentally friendly to our beautiful county.
This is not just my view; the government (Department for Transport – Moving Britain Ahead) has just completed its own study of the importance of local bus transport. It recognises that;
‘Buses support our economy and connect our communities to the workplace as well as to vital public services such as health and education. Buses help to reduce congestion in our urban areas with cleaner buses contributing significantly to improving air quality’.
It’s a pity the local Tory County Council does not seem to support this view, or indeed the view of Ipswich and Suffolk residents. Instead we have this seasonal pantomime from Cabinet Member responsible for transport, James Finch. First he says the Park and Ride buses have to go, and then he says he doesn’t want to cut the service. It sounds funny, but it’s no joke to the 600 passengers using the service daily, or to Ipswich bracing itself for 600 additional cars queuing up to get into and out of the town. And elsewhere in Suffolk, the loss of Community Transport as the service is ‘offered up to the market’ is likely to leave people stranded, in rural isolation.
So with the start of the New Year, I propose a new start for the Tory County Council; listen to the views of Suffolk residents and Ipswich Labour Councillors, stop playing games with people’s jobs, education and independence, and make a resolution not to cut Suffolk bus services. And stick to it.
Cllr Sandra Gage,
County and Borough Councillor for Rushmere, Ipswich
County Labour Spokesperson for Roads, Transport and Planning
Borough Deputy Portfolio Holder for Housing
Department for Transport reference link