RURAL communities could lose vital bus services from next year as a 30 per cent cut in Government funding looms.

Durham County Council is asking people which services they can live without after revealing that £1.3m will be slashed from the public transport budget in the autumn.

The fund supports services which are not commercially viable for companies – about 20 per cent of all services.

The cut could lead to residents losing relied-upon evening, weekend or bank holiday services.

Other services could be lost altogether as the authority struggles to cope with rising fuel costs and reductions in central Government funding.

Councillor John Shuttleworth, who represents the Weardale division, says he will fight any cuts to rural communities.

“If there is any subsidy to be cut, it should be in the urban areas,” he said.

“They shouldn’t cut rural buses because it will affect those who can least afford it.”

Residents of Rookhope use one service to reach Stanhope, which comes twice a day.

“Weardale is not like towns where buses come every 15 minutes,” said Coun Shuttleworth.

“We need a lot of hands on board to help fight this.”

The authority has said it will listen to residents’ opinions.

Head of transport Adrian White said: “Obviously, we want to minimise the impact of any reductions, so who best to turn to for views on this.

“We are expecting significant reductions in local authority funding in October and, rather than announce we are cutting this or that service, we would really appreciate hearing what the people who use and operate these services think.”

Councillor Neil Foster, cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, said: “We need to be prepared and this is the best way to do that.

“We are asking people to let us know which bus services they think they could best cope without and we will use this feedback to influence the decision-making process, should the anticipated budget reduction be announced.”

Residents with views should email passengertrans, write to Bus Service Consultation, Passenger Transport, Regeneration and Economic Development, Durham County Council, County Hall, Durham, DH1 5UQ, or go to under the Have Your Say section, from August 16.

The consultation process continues until September 24, with action expected after the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in October.