CUTS of £2m to bus subsidies across North Yorkshire have been agreed by councillors in the face of warnings that hundreds if not thousands of elderly and vulnerable people will be left stranded and isolated.
Repeated appeals were made by elderly people and groups representing them to delay the cuts and carry out a major investigation of public transport as North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive Committee met today (Tuesday, January 21).
But the executive decided the cuts will go ahead and have agreed a further review next year to look at cutting subsidies further.
Ruth Annison from Wensleydale warned there was a likelihood people who were now able to live independent lives would end up in care.
She said: “If you accept these far reaching cuts you will not be able to say ‘we didn’t realise how devastating they would be’ in the lives of hundreds if not thousands of residents.
"There is great anxiety and indeed dread and desperation as to what the future holds.”
Mrs Annison said in her village of Askrigg the first bus would not get to Hawes until after the doctors' surgery closed.
Paul Fisher of Hambleton Over Fifties Forum said the people most disadvantaged would be the elderly, the disabled, and people on low incomes, and community transport schemes would not be able to fill the gaps.
Thousands of people had objected to the cuts with 15 petitions including 5,880 signatures, Richmond councillor Stuart Parsons said they had largely been ignored.
“Public health will feel the impact of these cuts," he said. "The cost to the county council will be much more than the £2m pounds they are about to save."
The council had initially consulted on £1.1m in cuts, but officers identified up to £2m in savings through procurement negotiations with operators.
The savings largely come through less frequent services, withdrawal of subsidised town services which the authority is hoping will be taken up as commercial routes, and reductions to school transport.
Coun Carl Les said: "We need the wisdom of Solomon to find a balance between the fears of isolation and lonelinesss and the budget reductions that have been forced on us.
"We have had to find £94m so far and there is a further £77m to find."
Coun John Weighell, chairman of the executive and council leader, said: "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."
Councillors also decided to lobby the government over reductions in funding and concessionary fare issues. Many pensioners groups had offered to pay towards bus costs but that is not allowed.
The authority said it is also looking at alternative funding from parish councils and will carry out a review of services. The cuts start from April.
The services affected by cuts in bus subsidies include:
53 Northallerton-Romanby-RAF Leeming
74A,75,70A,74 Northallerton Town
82,83,84 Stokesley-Yarm/Seamer,Newby/Ingleby Greenhow
146 Thirsk Town-Rail Station
151 Thirsk-Carlton Miniott
31A,31B,31C Richmond Town Service
79 Richmond-Barnard Castle
59,60,60A Thirsk-Oulston/Dalton/Carlton Husthwaite
136,138,138A,139 Masham, Ripon, Melmerby
138,138A,139 Mickley, Ripon, Grantley
142,3 Ripon, Skelton, Boroughbridge, Dishforth Airfield