BUS services tipped to be axed will continue in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge after a last minute County Hall u-turn.
Kent County Council [KCC] announced yesterday [Tuesday, January 16] that a consultation into the proposals that was due to start tomorrow [Thursday] will no longer take place.
The authority was set to recuperate £2.25million a year by ending subsidies to routes, which included a combined 23 in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge.
But after central Government grant reductions were less than feared, KCC needed to only budget for £450,000 rather than the predicted £2.25million.
Council Leader Paul Carter said there is no longer a need for the subsidies to end.
Instead, County Hall has budgeted £500,000 for ‘conversations’ about the buses with parish councils and community groups.
“We believe there are smarter, more responsive ways to deliver these bus services,” said Cllr Carter.
“We intend to arrange a whole series of big conversations with parish councils and communities on how this can be delivered.”
Controversial proposals to end routes, which included entire services to villages and small communities, provoked a public outcry after they were unveiled in the autumn.
This forced Cllr Carter to apologise for the ‘premature’ release of routes potentially facing the axe.
The fallout has seen Cllr Matthew Balfour, the Cabinet Member for Transport, lose his job last week to Cllr Mike Whiting.
Martin Betts, Campaign Coordinator for Tunbridge Wells Labour Party, said: “The climb-down from making severe cuts to bus subsidies is to be welcomed.
“It is a direct response to thousands of people across the county who are saying that they have had enough of the austerity embraced by Conservatives at all levels of government.
“Instead of tinkering with budgets at county level we need proper Government funding to ensure that we get the decent public services we need. This will only come from Labour.”
Gillian Douglass, Chairperson of Liberal Democrats Tunbridge Wells, added: “The rural routes had already been cut down which effects chiefly the older people and younger people. It is great we are going to keep these services.”
Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, said: “I am delighted that Kent County Council has listened to our concerns about potential cuts to local bus services.
“Many people would have been affected so this news will be a great relief. It is vital that our local bus services keep running.”