Bus cuts ‘must be made’ to save Hampshire County Council millions

DECISION Cocunillor Mel Kendall
DECISION Cocunillor Mel Kendall

County council grant aims to reduce household waste

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HAMPSHIRE’S head of transport has promised no-one will be without public transport, despite a cut in bus funding.

The county council plans to cut £2.2m from its £6.7m bus subsidy budget.

The cash is used to prop up services private operators see as unprofitable, but the council says central government funding reductions mean it must reduce the amount it spends.

Its leader for transport and the environment, Cllr Mel Kendall, said: ‘It’s a financial imperative. We know the government homes in on transport when it’s looking for cuts, so we’ve worked with the people of Hampshire, as well as the bus companies, to see where they can be made.’

The county council must save £55m this year, and is expecting a further cut of £45m in 2012-13. Its savings will come into effect in October, in the hope no further cuts will have to be made next year.

No buses which cross the county council’s boundary with Portsmouth City Council will suffer cuts, so people travelling to QA Hospital will be unaffected. But others will see reductions in frequency, or services cut completely at night, or on Sundays.

Cllr Kendall said: ‘It’s frustrating. We don’t control what private bus companies do, so we have to work with their needs. But we’ve consulted with people, and we’ve taken on board their wishes as much as we can. Most people who responded said they wanted a service of reduced frequency rather than a total cut and replacement with taxi services. But where a cut has been necessary, no-one will be without a service.’

Where services are to be cut, the council has arranged a taxi replacement service, which users call the night before they need to travel, and can book a taxi at the same price as the bus.

Cllr Kendall said: ‘It’s not what everyone wants, but it means people can travel at the same price they did before.’

The council issued 5,000 consultation surveys in February and March this year, of which 607 were returned, though some were on behalf of groups, not individuals.

Cllr Kendall will next Wednesday announce £185,956 cuts to Fareham and Gosport’s £659,674 subsidy budget.

They will affect 10 services, including the end of the 35 from Fareham to Stubbington, and the end of evening services on the 88, from Gosport to Fareham, via Stokes Bay. The 26/28 Fareham to Locks Heath, the 36 from Lee-on-the-Solent to Fareham, the 63 from Fareham to Havant and the 69 Fareham to Winchester route will also be affected.

In Havant, where £238,227 will be cut from the £674,308 subsidy, the 38/138 from Fareham to Waterlooville, will be withdrawn, to be replaced with a taxi scheme, and the 30/31 Havant to Hayling Island route will see the end of some evening services.