Bus subsidies in the firing line

November 29, 2017

KCC’s annual £6.4 million subsidy for loss-making bus services across the county is under grave threat. The County Council is now putting forward proposals for how to prioritise the intended cuts. Within its Medium Term Financial Plan there is a planned reduction of £4 million for 2018-2020, so a 70 per cent reduction in the current subsidy.

Based on the current list of subsidised routes, local ones that are touted for cutting include the Monday to Saturday number 11 Lydd-Ashford-William Harvey Hospital service; Monday-to-Friday 533 Brookland to Rye; Monday-to-Saturday 18 Canterbury to Hythe service; and Monday-to-Friday 125 Ashford to Aldington service.

Across the county, from the extensive list (three per cent of total bus mileage, comprising 3.8 million journeys in 2016/17) it is clear that the proposed cuts would mean further rural isolation and would make it harder for residents to access key services.

Our KCC member for Hythe West, Martin Whybrow, says: “In case anyone was in any doubt, the relentless cuts from central government are clearly hitting front-line services in Kent, often with a disproportional impact on the elderly and vulnerable. Children’s centres are again in the firing line, include the one in Hythe and two in Folkestone; infant feeding services and services for disabled people are under threat; and now we have the proposals to slash bus subsidies.

“In KCC’s own words, “the services supported by KCC carry a large proportion of elderly and disabled people as well as those who do not have alternative access to key services”. The clue is in the name: “Socially Necessary Bus Services”.  I do not think that KCC has done enough to explore all options and am disappointed that it is only now taking serious steps to encourage new community service operators that might fill some of the gaps. That process should have started two or three years ago, KCC should not have not waited until we are at the cliff edge.

“I also don’t think there has been enough dialogue with the main bus operators and I believe that for these highly profitable companies, running some loss-making services should be part and parcel of the overall service that they provide. I spoke and voted against the overall financial plan and I would urge everyone to respond when KCC goes out to consultation on the proposed cuts to these vital bus services.”