The decision to cut the subsidies given to bus services across Ryedale will “rip the heart and guts out of our towns and villages,” say campaigners.
More than 150 bus services across the county will either be axed or reduced following the decision of North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive this afternoon (Tuesday, January 21).
The cuts will save the authority £2 million, a move it says is necessary following a major reduction in its grants from the Government.
In Ryedale, it means the 171 Pickering Town and 170 Littledale Circular services, both in Pickering, will be cancelled, along with the 193 Malton and Norton Town Bus - unless its current service provider decides to run the bus commercially.
Residents will be expected to rely on a Dial-a-Ride service in Pickering, and possibly Malton and Norton, which critics say will be unworkable due to the large number of people who use the town services on a daily basis.
Several other routes which serve Ryedale’s outlying villages and provide a link with the district’s market towns will also be reduced from April.
Norton campaigner Paul Swain, who went to the meeting, said: “To be quite honest, they don’t give a monkeys. For one hour and 20 minutes, they waffled on, patting themselves on the back and saying what a good job they had done. When it comes to the elections, it will come back to bite them.
“When I first heard about this in May, I had it in the back of my head then that it will be a classic case of everything is cut and dried - and it was a classic case. What is that saying about the democracy we are supposed to be in?”
Cllr Sue Cowan, the Mayor of Pickering, said afterwards: “It was nothing we didn’t expect. At the end of the day we have got to look at other ways of maintaining this town bus.”
She revealed that at Monday’s Pickering Town Council had agreed to look at ways of subsidising the town bus and have opened a dialogue with Richard Owens, the council’s Assistant Director of Integrated Transport.
The county council said it is actively looking to utilise “surplus capacity” in its own fleet, as well as working with community transport groups to “mitigate the effects of subsidy reductions.
At today’s meeting, the Executive agreed to lobby central government about concessionary fares issues, that it will investigate alternative funding from parish councils where local buses are not provided commercially, and to conduct an in-depth review of local bus services to establish how they could be put on a more sustainable footing.
“These cuts have been imposed on North Yorkshire County Council – not just on the bus subsidies, but across the whole range of services which the council provides,” said County Cllr John Weighell, the Chairman of the Executive and Council Leader.
“We have been obliged to take decisions such as this to avoid setting a deficit budget, but at the same time we are determined to do everything possible to minimise the impact on individuals.”
County Cllr Carl Les, the Deputy Leader, said: “We are all very conscious of the potential that these reductions have for people in very rural areas, in terms of isolation and loneliness. These issues are very much in our minds, and we will do all we can to mitigate against them.”