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Complain to ombudsman about bus cuts
9:56am Thursday 5th September 2013 in Postbag
I GATHER that council funding for bus services along the Salisbury- Bournemouth (X3) route after 8pm will cease from September and as a result bus services, except on Fridays and Saturdays.
Wiltshire Council manages the arrangements for funding, the cost being shared between Wiltshire and Hampshire, but apparently not, I am told, by Dorset. As Hants has withdrawn funding, Wilts cannot afford to subsidise the whole route.
By law, councils have to take into account the social and related needs of the elderly and disabled when making such decisions: the number of passengers on a bus at any time is totally irrelevant regarding this law.
Also, the 1985 Transport Act states that local authorities have a duty to provide subsidised bus services where there are no commercial bus services and where they think it is appropriate to do so. In this case they have no choice. The last bus back from Bournemouth, leaving at 11pm, is needed far more for social and related needs than the previous one at 8pm, so if cuts are totally unavoidable for a county far wealthier than Wilts, I suggest the mid-evening service is withdrawn.
Bournemouth and Poole have a confirmed population exceeding 300,000 and provide a wide variety of entertainments unavailable this side of Bristol and London.
Hampshire has a poor track record in such matters. In 2006, Hampshire County Council in Winchester made sweeping cuts in subsidies to evening bus services suddenly across the county and as a result many essential services suddenly disappeared. This was one reason I moved to Salisbury from Lyndhurst the following year. I took the matter to the council ombudsman.
I suggest that if the intended cuts go ahead people complain to the council ombudsman, as investigations into the service needs of the elderly and disabled of all ages have to be extremely rigorous to be acceptable in law.
RICHARD SEARS, Salisbury
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