AN influential committee is to investigate claims that a council responsible for a 5,750-mile road network has failed in its statutory duty to assess the travel needs of residents of rural areas.

North Yorkshire County Council’s transport, economy and environment scrutiny committee has also agreed to examine campaigners’ allegations that the authority has misspent government grants to develop rural services.

A campaign for the council to help communities develop innovative solutions to an absence of public transport was launched by villagers in the Thirsk area earlier this year after bus firms stopped services which some residents regarded as vital.

Transport campaigners who have pressed for the inquiry say they appreciate public transport may not be the answer for all rural areas, but the council should be exploring other options for residents.

However, the authority has claimed it is meeting its duty to assess the transport needs of communities, is able to consider cost when doing so and could not provide support for services that are not well used.

One of the campaigners, former bus firm managing director Barry Connor, said the council had spent a £120,000 Government Total Transport pilot scheme grant on integrating non-emergency patient transport service with public transport between 2015 and 2017, creating savings of £200,000.

In the council’s application to the Department of Transport the council said it would use the pilot scheme to review the availability of wider public transport.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request a council spokeswoman said the authority held no records about how the savings were achieved. The council spokeswoman added: “No further work has been undertaken in relation to integrating non-emergency patient transport services with other forms of public passenger transport in North Yorkshire.”

The committee’s chairman, Councillor Stanley Lumley said as the Pateley Bridge member he was “familiar with regards to the impact that loss of transport services can have on residents, particularly for those who do not have a car”.