Decision due on bus subsidy cuts (Update: Decision Made)

(Pic: © Copyright Jaggery and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.)

Next week, Bridgend Council’s Cabinet will discuss controversial proposals to make a £188,000 cut to supported bus routes, with the results of a public consultation now revealed (pdf).

Here’s a reminder of the bus routes which will be affected if a decision is made to go ahead with the cuts:

What did the public consultation reveal?

The full report on the consultation is available here (pdf). There were just under 1,000 responses, as well as a 180-signature petition from residents in Porthcawl.

Here are the key findings:

  • 89% believed the routes should continue to be subsidised, only 8% supported a cut.
  • A majority of respondents were aged 55+ and 94% of them believed the buses should continue to be subsidised. In addition, 33% said they were disabled. The equalities impact assessement (pdf) states the elderly, women and disabled were likely to be disproportionately affected by the cuts based on the consultation responses.
  • There was a mixed response in terms of supporting the method used to choose which routes should be cut, with fairly even splits between “support”, “don’t support” and “don’t know” – though marginally more people disagreed than agreed.
  • The routes most commonly used were the 63b Bridgend-Porthcawl via Kenfig Hill and the 68/69 Cefn Glas Circular.
  • 38% of respondents used the listed routes more than twice a week with 20% using them daily.
  • Only 339 (35%) of respondents were aware of Community Transport (which will be expected to fill the gap if the routes are cut).

The possible options facing the Cabinet

The report says that when bus subsidies have been cut in the past, the bus operators have often chosen to run the routes on a commercial basis anyway. It’s unclear yet whether the likes of First Cymru and Easyway will be willing to do this with some of the affected routes.

It’s also unclear yet whether Bridgend Community Transport will be able to replace any of these services.

Members of the council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee were led to understand that BCBC increased a council tax rise from 4.2% to 4.5% for 2018-19 to cover the bus subsidy. They also raised concerns that cuts would increase social isolation and prevent residents from accessing hospital appointments – suggesting that the health board could provide funding.

The Cabinet will now have to decide what to do based on the consultation and officer recommendations.

If they decide to go ahead with the cut as planned, then no cuts would have to be made elsewhere though Bridgend Bus Station is expected to lose £4,100 a year in departure charges (because fewer buses will use the station).

If the Cabinet decides to do a u-turn, the £188,000 will have to be found from elsewhere – either from additional savings/cuts in the Communities department or by using any unallocated money from the council tax increase.

This post will be updated when a final decision’s been made.

Update 24/05/2018: As reporting in this week’s Glamorgan Gazette, BCBC’s Cabinet have decided to reduce the cut to £134,000. The 51 (Oaklands Road), 61 (Nottage) and 803 (Danygraig) services have all been given a 12-month reprieve. All the other bus routes will have their subsidies withdrawn. It’s unclear yet which routes bus operators will decide to run on a commercial basis.

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