When I was asked to write this blog about why I decided to support the Community Transport petition, which was set up by the County Labour Group, I was a little flummoxed about how best to start it.
Then I thought I’d start it with a story: A few weeks ago, I was out in Shotley on a Sunday. After a nice day out, I made the trip back to my home in Hadleigh. It was on this return journey that I saw a community operated minibus picking up some kids – on a Sunday, a day when no other commercial bus was running, community transport was there plugging the gap.
Right here you can see the importance of Community Transport.
The fact is Suffolk is a rural county. And for a rural county, where the population is spread out, the kind of flexibility that community transport can provide is vital to the everyday life of so many.
The wider impact of this kind of transport is not a simple “A to B”. For instance, rural transport is beneficial to people’s health, to people’s social lives and to local businesses. For more elderly users of community transport, the benefits to their health are enormous – through community buses, they can get out and about, socialise and do their shopping, which is especially useful for those without any internet.
In villages and market towns, with narrow medieval streets, the smaller buses used by community operators are able to negotiate the roads more easily and safely than the larger double-deckers favoured by the commercial operators – in Hadleigh, two double-deckers side by side are wider Benton Street, on the main route to Hadleigh from the A12!
So, why did I get involved in this campaign?
I got involved in this campaign because I believe that you really can’t undersell the value of community transport.
This is already the most efficient form of public transport, in terms of the amount spent on it through Council money. Reducing by half the funding that Community Transport Operators receive from the public purse will inevitably mean that the service they provide will be rolled back, or stopped altogether.
Suffolk County Council need to start thinking outside the box when it comes to rural transport and they need to start listening to and engaging with the public, but their attitude to community transport shows me that they just aren’t thinking.
I’m happy to say that I was able to collect over 300 signatures for this petition from the Hadleigh area, so I would like to thank the hundreds of Hadleigh residents, and the visitors to our lovely High Street, who signed the petition to Suffolk County Council in support of our Community Transport service.
Without the services provided by the Community Transport Operators, including the help of the many volunteers involved throughout our large and beautiful County, many vulnerable people, who have no other access to transport, particularly in the more remote rural areas, would be left isolated and unable to carry out routine tasks.
We collectively await Suffolk County Council’s response to this petition. I would encourage all County Councillors, regardless of politics, to look at this petition and to please work to reverse these cuts.