Loss of bus services will be a 'catastrophe' for the elderly, according to campaigners
PUBLISHED: 08:52 05 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:06 05 December 2017
Cutting subsidies to Norfolk bus routes, which could lead to services being axed, would be "a catastrophe", according to campaigners for older people.
Norfolk County Council is consulting over a £500,000 cut to the subsidy it gives bus operators and community transport providers, as it wrestles with ways to plug a £125m spending gap.
The council subsidises bus companies by £2.7m a year, for about 100 services. It also gives £400,000 to community transport operators.
Subsidised bus routes across Norfolk, including Great Yarmouth, Norwich, King’s Lynn, Thetford, Beccles, Aylsham, Swaffham, Acle, Wymondham, Dereham, Watton, Diss, Fakenham, Bradwell, Holt, Cromer, North Walsham and Sheringham, could all be affected.
And, with the subsidies paid because operators deemed those services were not viable without support, it could see services end if money is withdrawn.
Helen Burgess, regional manager for Age Space, which offers online support and advice about care for older people, said: “The concern is, that with Norfolk being such a rural county, this will really isolate a lot of older people.
“Loneliness is one of the UK’s biggest killers and it would just be a catastrophe if we lost these bus services.
“It’s already a struggle for many older people to get out and if these services are taken away, then it would be disastrous.
“So much work has been done over the past 20 years and that could be stripped away.
Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at Norfolk County Council, said: “We should be looking to increase public transport not threaten it.
“The proposed cuts are short sighted, socially and economically damaging and destructive to work put in over a number of years. Public transport in Norfolk is dire so improving it should be a spending priority.”
The county council says it wants to prioritise support for bus services which help people get to and from work and to essential services such as healthcare appointments or food shopping.
It is encouraging people to take part in the consultation, although Cliff Jordan, Conservative leader at County Hall has said: “We know people don’t want reductions, but, nationally, we’re getting less funding and we have got to cut our cake.”
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