We’re all representatives of many Suffolk residents who are left at the mercy of our current rural transport service. As such, your Lib Dem councillors were keen to support a Labour motion to Full Council yesterday calling on the Conservative administration to reverse decisions it has made about the future of community transport (see here for details).
As Lib Dem spokesperson for Transport, Caroline Page put it: ” The new-look Community Transport is tasked with doing so much more for so many more with so much less. Cynically it would seem that a primary reason for this design is that should these services fail, they would fail at one remove from the County Council. The outcome – whether intentional or not – is SCC could then look at the people unable to get where they need to go – the very people for whom Community Transport was intended – and say, “Not my fault, guv.””
A planned cut of 50% to the County council operators’ subsidy, when combined with a move away from community-based services is a double-whammy.
Cllr Page pointed out that change was inevitable at a time of austerity. “But to remove the subsidy and to remove the minibus fleet simultaneously – and then sit back and say “Of course you’ll make a profit!” without checking whether it is possible, or what will happen to those who would lose out if it fails, seems plain irresponsible.”
Leader Colin Noble had confirmed earlier in the meeting that the current Rural Services Delivery Grant had maintained, rather than cut, Suffolk’s level of rural funding. This emphasises the subsidy cut was not necessary “but an exercise of power without responsibility, putting ideology before efficiency,” said Cllr Page.
“I can only reiterate what I said at last month’s budget meeting: Yes, this is a time of austerity and we must all get real. SO lets talk the reality of reality. At such times we have a duty to support those people who are suffering most from the impact of austerity. We must do everything to ensure our rural community transport reliable public transport reliably underpins education, employment, training, access to health and social care for those that need it. ”
Despite impassioned and intelligent argument from the opposition cross benches, the motion was voted down by the ruling Conservative administration.
Lib Dem Spokesperson, Transport