I would like to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the thousands who signed the petition I began last November, and to the many activists across Suffolk who collected the signatures on my behalf.
5,410 Suffolk residents signed and as they did they shared with me, or one of the several who joined me on the streets of towns and villages, stories of how Community Transport enriched their lives, or the lives of family and friends who use it regularly. They value the social benefits as well as the transport and they cannot praise highly enough the volunteer drivers who have become their lifeline.
We spoke to residents across Suffolk from Newmarket, Sudbury Haverhill, and Hadleigh, to Shotley, Ipswich, Felixstowe, Leiston, Lowestoft, and Bungay. In total almost 50% of the county’s parishes are represented in the petition. All felt motivated to support mine and the County Labour Group’s view that this vital service must not have its budget halved, its mini bus fleet sold off, and service set up with no effort on the part of the County Council to ask what the passengers themselves need.
For months I have challenged the Tory County Council on their plans to half funding, dispose of the minibus fleet and set up commercial contracts. This will not ‘transform’ the service for the better, it will cut out and isolate whole communities. What is proposed is unsustainable.
About to hand in the petition to Suffolk County Council. From left, David Plowman, Rickaby Sanders, Sandy Martin, Sandra Gage, Jess Evans, Len Jacklin, and Margaret Morris, from Hadleigh, Ipswich and Felixstowe.
On Friday 4 March we met at Endeavour House to hand in the petition to Suffolk County Council. But that is not enough; I doubt the Tory County Council will even formally acknowledge they have received it. So next Thursday, 17 March, I and fellow Labour County Councillor Len Jacklin will force the County Council at its Full Council meeting to acknowledge the public’s strong opinion, to argue against the Tory cuts to Community Transport, and to be the voice of the 5,410 people who represent so much of Suffolk and want their ‘Community Transport saved’. So if you are one of the many who signed this petition, thank you and please be assured we will do our best next Thursday to stop this Tory cut to your much loved, essential bus service.
Cllr Sandra Gage,
County and Borough Councillor for Rushmere, Ipswich
Labour Spokesperson for Roads, Transport and Planning