Second bus consultation to go ahead as proposals amended

Protest against bus cuts outside County Hall
Protest against bus cuts outside County Hall

A second public consultation on cuts to the county’s bus services is to be launched next month.

Herts County Council’s Cabinet today acted upon a recommendation from Highways and Waste Management Panel to approve a further consulting period in January 2015 with three proposals for possible changes to bus services that are subsidised by the authority.

The proposals – which include withdrawing funding from subsidised services after 7.30pm Monday to Saturdays – have been revised from harsher suggestions based on the feedback received during this year’s survey period.

The latest proposals also include withdrawing funding from subsidised services that operate on a Sunday, except for routes that directly serve hospitals up to 7.30pm, and determining how much money is spent on bus services based on usage and value for money – which will include an amendment to the bus strategy.

The county council currently subsidises a number of bus companies to provide services which it says are not used enough to make them commercially viable. According to the authority, it has worked to deliver savings of £150m over the last four years but needs to save a similar amount over the next four years.

Earlier proposals saw petitions with thousands of signatures handed in to the county council, as well as protests by campaign groups on the steps of County Hall as the feedback was debated by councillors.

Terry Douris, Cabinet Member for Highways and Waste Management, said: “Thank you to everyone who responded to our first consultation, signed petitions and wrote to us – this information has been helpful in shaping revised options for this new consultation.

“Based on the feedback we received during the first consultation, the revised options we are now proposing as part of a new consultation include a later cut off point for subsidised services, protection where possible for routes that directly serve hospitals and establishing a value for money approach when supporting local bus services.

“Despite having already made some savings, the future funding gap remains an ongoing challenge. This consultation will enable us to make informed decisions about how to make the savings needed in the future, while balancing the needs of bus users and all other taxpayers.

“We will have to make some difficult decisions in the months and years ahead, but we have to prioritise how we spend our money to deliver the services that are most needed and we have to do this within our budget. I must stress that although there is a clear reference in the consultation to a financial impact, no final decision will be taken until the completion of the consultation period and after a period of evaluation. Final proposals will then be brought to Cabinet for a decision.”

A copy of the Cabinet paper, which includes a summary of the consultation findings, is available at www.hertsdirect.org/your-council/civic_calendar/cabinet/20141215/.