Bus cuts are "major blow to local communities"

Winchester City Council has indicated its strong opposition to Hampshire County Council's proposed cuts in financial support for local bus services and has expressed concern at the extremely short timescale allowed for response.

Cllr Richard Knasel, the City Council's portfolio holder for transport and economy, said the proposed cuts are potentially a major blow to local communities and appear contrary to the transport policies the City Council shares with the County Council of reducing dependence on the car as a mode of transport.

"We should be moving towards a situation where those who do not have a car, whether through necessity or choice, have the alternative of using readily accessible public transport," he added.

"At a time when we are seeking to improve air quality in Winchester and to reduce the isolation of rural communities, cutting bus services, rather than promoting or improving them, seems illogical. It is very disappointing that the County Council is proposing to reduce expenditure on these services."

Cllr Knasel also expressed his concern at the extremely short timescale allowed for response on this important issue, particularly since so many people are on holiday during the August period.

"It is very disappointing to find ourselves with so little time to seek views, especially as the County has raised questions regarding funding which have been difficult to consider within this timescale," he said. "We would like to do our best to ensure that people are properly consulted but we have had very little time to do this."

He also ruled out the City Council contributing to the cost of keeping the services going.

"The County Council receives funding from taxation to support local bus services and we do not consider it appropriate for the City Council to take over any part of this responsibility," he commented.

Cllr Knasel said there did not appear to have been any discussion with the operator, Stagecoach, to establish whether lower cost options are available, and he urged that options that retain parts of the services at lower cost should be urgently considered.

"The City Council would welcome further discussions with the County on such options and we look forward to receiving revised proposals from them as soon as possible," he added.