A GROUP campaigning for better rural services in England has warned that bus cuts in North Yorkshire could have a devastating impact.

Rural Services Network, made up of around 200 organisations working to improve rural services, said in some areas the cuts have reached “critical levels” and that North Yorkshire would be one of the worst affected counties.

The Local Government Association said affected authorities likely to be worst hit include North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Dorset, Essex, Worcestershire, and Nottinghamshire.

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A Save Our Buses campaign backed by the network is calling for an urgent review into funding for bus services ahead of the government's budget on Wednesday, March 19.

Rural Services Network chairman, Councillor Cecilia Motley, said: “Buses play a vital role in rural communities – especially for local residents who do not have a car or other available transport.

"We recognise the need for austerity measures but government cuts are in grave danger of going too far – leaving many rural local authorities with no choice but to reduce funding for bus services.

“Once bus route are lost they are often gone forever. It can be very difficult – sometimes impossible – to restore routes in the future even if finances improve.”

John Birtwistle, projects director at UK Bus for First Group, said: "While these supported services make up a small proportion of the English bus network overall, rural communities are highly reliant on such services."

"Bus operators are working hand in hand with local authorities to minimise the impact of these funding cuts and commend this approach to all local authorities."

Chris Metcalfe from North Yorkshire County Council said the cuts to buses were part of a wider need to make savings as a result of cuts to the council budget.

He said: “Bus services are not being singled out; a whole range of service areas are being scrutinised and savings are being made where possible.

“Around 80 percent of bus services in the county are already provided by commercial companies.

“Even now we are still talking to communities and commercial providers, and looking for ways to mitigate the impact of our decisions.

“We are conscious of the consequences but will do all we can to reduce the hardship on rural communities.”