Fears KCC budget cuts will see bus services dropped

    Bus passengers will be invited to take part in a consultation into plans that could see a number of lifeline services scrapped.

    Kent County Council (KCC) is considering a move to stop subsidising 78 services, including a combined 23 in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge, to save an estimated £4million.

    Tomorrow [Thursday] County Hall’s Environment and Transport committee are set to approve a consultation into the plans, which is likely to be held from January next year.

    This could see anything from one service a week on the route being dropped to a whole service being scrapped, a thought that worries Tunbridge Wells Councillor Peter Lidstone.

    The Liberal Democrat member for St John’s said: “These are cuts which by KCC’s own admission will have a greater impact on the elderly, the disabled and their carers.

    “More people will be forced into their cars, and back onto our congested roads. It’s madness.”

    The county council was unable to say last night [Tuesday] which services could be cut partially and which entirely.

    The authority subsidises some services completely and for others provides partial support alongside an independent operator.

    Consultation Matthew Balfour, KCC cabinet member for highways, said: “The contracts under discussion could be support for the whole service, some evening journeys, weekend journeys, diversions off of the route or specific journeys.

    “At present it is proposed to reduce the budget for Socially Necessary Bus Services (SNBS) by £4million over the coming two years at a time when budgets are extremely tight.

    “However, we recognise the significant importance of these bus contracts affected by the proposals which account for 1.6 million journeys.

    “The proposal has identified bus contracts, supported by KCC, which, subject to consultation, could be withdrawn– it does not necessarily mean the whole service will go.”

    Hugo Pound, chairman of Tunbridge Wells Labour Party, added: “The county council lament the cuts that are being forced on them and call for the easing of government austerity measures.

    “Anyone would think he is not the same party as the government that is causing them.

    “This wringing of hands and crocodile tears by Conservative council leaders is simply not believable.

    “If these Tory councils were really worried, they would be applying maximum pressure on their MPs to change government policy.

    “As Conservatives they are fully complicit in these austerity measures. They are all in it together and it is their job to get us all out of it.”

    The Times will publish details of how to get involved with the consultation when they become available.