Council expresses concerns over cuts to bus subsidies in Norfolk

Dereham bus stop. Picture: Archant

Dereham bus stop. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

The Dereham Town Council has highlighted their concerns over a proposal to review money given to bus companies by the county council to subsidise bus routes.

The cost saving review is part of a larger consultation launched by Norfolk County Council (NCC) which aims to assess how to save £125 million by 2021, ahead of a complete cut to a central government grant.

The plan laid out by the NCC would prioritise supporting bus services which help to get people to work, to essential services and for food shopping, as well as for those living in areas where there are no other transport options.

If the change goes ahead the council says it would mean a saving of £500,000 in 2018/19.

However, a spokesperson for Dereham Town Council has said the criteria the NCC has proposed is not sufficient.

They said consideration should also be given to the volume of people using the service, not just whether there are other public transport options.

'There are also the wider economic factors which need to taken into consideration,' they continued.

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'Dereham has a congested road network, the town centre car parks are close to their functional capacity. The local bus services enable greater footfall within the town centre and help to alleviate congestion.

'Before decisions are made to reduce bus subsidy into and within a market town, an economic assessment should be made to consider the impact on the road network relating to congestion or footfall in the town centre.

'The Government is funding work to reduce congestion in Dereham it would be a shame if the county council then increases congestion again by reducing the subsidy on local bus services.'

The county council has said Norfolk is facing a big challenge and they are under pressure to make savings. They have proposed an increase to council tax in 2018 but the amount of money won't be enough to balance the budget.

The council currently subsidises bus companies by £2.7m a year, for about 100 services and gives £400,000 to community transport operators.

Under the proposal buses in towns like Dereham could be affected and, with the subsidies paid because operators deemed those services were not viable without support, it could see them come to an end.

Give your views on the proposals by taking part in the consultation here.