13 February 2016
Shropshire Council has announced savage cuts in bus services . This is an attack on those Shropshire residents trying to get to work and attend training opportunities, those on low incomes, those without a car, and those over the age of 65 whose health and quality of life depends on the ability to visit local market towns and get to hospital appointments. Bus cuts are very bad news anywhere but in a low-income, sparsely populated area with a high proportion of older people like Shropshire they are very damaging indeed.
There is no need for these cuts. They are part of the attack by a Conservative government on public services and are being implemented by a Conservative-controlled council. All Conservative politicians are responsible for the consequences.
Bus services in rural areas are not just “nice to have”. They are essential lifelines for jobs, education, healthcare and the ability to take part in the normal social and recreational activities that make for a civilised society.
The devastating impacts of bus cuts have been summarised by Michelle Wilkes of Ditton Priors [Note 2 below]. Her personal story is one of many hundreds of similar stories that reveal the severe problems caused to ordinary hard-working residents in Shropshire by thoughtless and uncaring Conservative politicians.
Commenting on the Shropshire bus cuts, Dr David Gibbon, Coordinator of South Shropshire Green Party, said:
“The scale of bus cuts in Shropshire is a tragedy and damages the lives of all those who need to use buses. It will also force more people to buy a car at a time when household budgets are already under severe pressure and add to road traffic when all governments – and even Shropshire Council – are committed to reducing harmful air pollution and greenhouse gases from traffic. The real tragedy is that it is so unnecessary in the 5th richest country of the world and it is especially damaging in Shropshire.”
For further information please contact Dr David Gibbon, Coordinator, South Shropshire Green Party.
Michelle Wilkes is not a Green Party member.
The draft Shropshire Council budget would mean a cut of 91% from the current sum of £1.5m to £145k, which is pretty close to the subsidy Ludlow alone currently receives.
Shropshire Council’s cabinet has also approved a half-million pound cut in subsidies for the public transport it provides directly, from £531,980 in 2016/17 to just £283,980 in 2017/18. This will lead to a reduction in community bus services across the county.
Michelle Wilkes, Ditton Priors
Cancer sufferer Michelle Wilkes was forced to cancel hospital appointments because her Shropshire village has no regular bus. The 44-year-old nursery nurse lives in Ditton Priors which has been without a commercial service since 2013. To attend treatment sessions for her skin cancer - which is now in remission - Michelle needed to travel to Shrewsbury Hospital, 40 miles away. Because Shropshire Council had withdrawn the Link Bus which made a connection, she had to rely on family and friends for lifts. When these were unavailable, she cancelled her slots to allow someone else to attend. She has written to Shropshire Council to draw its attention to the problem:
“I am writing to ask that consideration is given to the huge impact bus cuts to the village of Ditton Priors are having on the community. Ditton Priors used to have a six days-a-week service, initially four times a day, then through booking the Shropshire Link bus. When these services were axed, Ditton was left with only a school service bus (R&B Travel) which allowed the public to travel during term times to and from our local market town when it transported the schoolchildren. This was put out to tender in July and will no longer allow the public to use it. This was our last lifeline, now removed; I will not be able to continue in work and prospects for further employment have diminished entirely. Young people will no doubt be in similar positions, not everyone gets bought a car or passes their test aged 17. Families on benefits in the area now have the perfect excuse not to find work as transport to attend job interviews, training and employment is removed. Pensioners without their own transport are now only allowed out of the village for a couple of hours a week on the community bus which runs on a Thursday and a Friday...it does not give enough time in town for the simplest of tasks (I spoke to an elderly lady who advised she had used it to attend a dental appointment; her appointment was delayed and she was very stressed that she would be stranded in Bridgnorth as the bus leaves promptly to return). Many pensioners are paying for taxis, most are staying at home, causing loneliness and isolation. Community transport cannot be accessed by young people to attend after-school clubs, revision sessions for exams, or to visit friends, the cinema or local leisure centre. Again, rural isolation impacting on a whole community. How many young people will stay in the area long term? How many elderly people will put their houses on the market as they struggle to lead a full life? The impact is huge: it is incomprehensible to me that Shropshire Council thinks this is acceptable.”
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