The Labour Group Motion calling on the Administration to reverse changes to Suffolk’s Community Transport provision was voted down by the ruling Conservative Group at Full Council.
The motion was supported by the Labour Petition to “Save our Community Transport”, which was presented to the Council shortly before the debate on the motion started.
The decision to fundamentally change the community bus provision – which is already the cheapest and most cost effective form of public transport provision available – from a grant aided service to a commercially tendered contract, cutting funding by 50% over 4 years, was made by the Conservative Cabinet in October last year without a proper consultation process and amid serious resistance from all opposition parties, as well as Conservative backbenchers.
The proposer of the Motion and Petition Organiser, Cllr Sandra Gage, said “This petition represents the popular opinion of Suffolk people and should have served as food for thought at today’s vote among the ruling Conservative Group. The fact that they ignored it anyway shows the callousness of this Conservative Administration.”
“I actually wish I could say that I was surprised, but the disappointing truth is that this vote is entirely in keeping with the profound disregard for the general public that the Conservatives have displayed throughout this entire process.”
Cllr Gage concluded by saying, “The severe 50% cut and the sale of the Council’s fleet of minibuses will cause bus routes to disappear and people of all ages in rural areas to struggle and suffer. I am deeply saddened by the result of this vote.”
Community Transport user, Jess Evans, who helped collect the petition and was present at the vote, said “I’m young and I’ve never been able to learn how to drive a car – due to poor eyesight – so I rely on Community Transport, as it gets me places at difficult times, often plugging the gap left by commercial public transport. I often use the community transport replacement service, particularly for the later and weekend bus times, that our Beestons service in Hadleigh no longer runs in order to get to and from home and work.”
“I got involved with this campaign because community transport is integral to me being able to do my work. The claims that these changes will improve the service, make it more accessible to young people, all while cutting it by 50% are just unbelievable to me. Community Transport already works and young people already use it, so why change it? This was purely a cost cutting exercise and I’m now really worried that I won’t be able to do my work.”
In an, at times, heated debated today, Cllr Gage reminded the Tories that “those of you with some of the most rural and isolated parishes within your Divisions have to consider whether each of you will be able to look the old and young voter in the eye, next Spring and say you had their best interests at heart when you voted to cut their Community Transport. I know where the Labour Group stands on this, on the side of the lowest paid, the old and young across Suffolk whose lives and future depends on this service.”