Herts County Council says it has developed some alternative options to address concerns raised in its previous consultation over sweeping bus cuts and pledges to save £1.7 million in the process.
Terry Douris, Cabinet Member for Highways, wrote an open letter to the Gazette this week in which he said he wanted to ‘address concerns and dispel some myths that have arisen over the upcoming bus consultation’.
Mr Douris insists the only decision the council has taken is to undertake a further public consultation having listened to the responses from the previous one and refined the proposals.
“Like all local authorities, Hertfordshire County Council is facing an unprecedented financial situation,” he said.
“Over the past four years the council has reduced its budget by £147m and must save a similar amount over the next four years.
“We listened to the feedback from our previous consultation and have developed some alternative options to address concerns raised while recognising the savings that we have to achieve. We would like as many people as possible to have their say on these options.”
Currently the council only subsidises a small number of passenger journeys on buses running in the county and says these are on routes that are not ‘commercially viable’.
Mr Douris said the proposals in the consultation, if enacted, will only affect 2% of all the passenger journeys running in Herts, while the other 98% of the 35million annual passenger journeys are unaffected – including all the commercial services.
He claims that if approved, the new proposition would save approximately £1.7m from the current base budget of £4.212m, but affect fewer passengers than the original proposals – 760,000 passenger journeys a year as opposed to 809,000 passenger journeys a year.
“We are proposing a later cut off point for contracted services to 7.30pm rather than 6.30pm and will protect services that directly serve hospitals on a Sunday up to 7.30pm,” he said.
“We have also listened to residents concerned about the amount of money we give to individual passenger journeys and are seeking to establish a clear, value for money approach by setting a limit on the amount of subsidy we provide for individual journeys.”
The consultation, if agreed at Cabinet on December 15, will launch in January 2015 and findings will be reported to Panel in May with a decision to be made by cabinet the same month.