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The Conservative cabinet will decide on the bus cuts on 16 December.

County council votes against bus cuts

Swelling ground opposition to East Sussex County Council’s proposals to cut local bus services found an echo in County Hall in Lewes yesterday when the full council voted against implementation. Nick Terdre reports.

By 25 to 21 the council approved a motion put forward by Councillor John Hodges which stated: This council recommends that the cabinet reject the current proposals to significantly reduce the level of financial support that facilitates a number of bus services that operate to serve everyday life in an acceptable manner across many parts of East Sussex. Council appreciates the support from thousands of ordinary citizens, businesses and those who, through advancing years, infirmity and potential isolation, depend totally upon this level of financial support that allows for the provision of those services now under threat.

The motion was supported by six Labour councillors, 10 Liberal Democrats, four independents and five UKIP councillors, and opposed by 19 Conservatives, one independent and one UKIP member.

Cllr Hodges was able to bring the motion because of the effective campaign against the bus cuts run by Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate Sarah Owen. Some 7,000 people signed Ms Owen’s petition, which, as it easily passed the threshold of 5,000 signatures, entitled her to bring it to the council and speak in favour of it. It also meant that Cllr Hodges was able to propose his motion.

This doesn’t happen very often – it was the first time in donkey’s years that such a petition had gained enough support to enable it to be brought to the council, Cllr Hodges said. And it is not only Hastings residents who have reacted – there was also a lot of protest outside County Hall from citizens of Lewes who have campaigned through their prospective parliamentary candidate.

The cabinet decides

Unfortunately this is not the end of the story – as the motion says, it is a recommendation to the cabinet, and, as a council spokesperson told HOT, would be “used to inform the cabinet decision.” This will be taken at its next meeting on 16 December. The ESCC cabinet consists of eight Conservative councillors.

Although this is an executive decision, Cllr Hodges told HOT that, “We will be there, we will have a chance to speak, we may have a chance to influence them.”

A consultation on the proposal – which aims to make savings of £1.79 million – was run by ESCC between July and September, but the results have not yet been made public – they are expected to be posted next Monday, the spokesperson said.

Cllr Hodges said he was in the process of writing to the council leader, Cllr Keith Glazier, with ideas drawn from his career in private business on how savings can be made without cutting public services. “Don’t get me wrong, the county council has indeed problems of saving money, but having come from a lifetime in the private sector, I think there’s a better way of doing it.

“I think you have an ethical and a moral duty to make sure that your own house is in order and that you are running your affairs, in an optimum fashion, economically and effectively, before you cut public services.”

He also drew attention to the effects of the cuts on bus-users. “Some that will suffer the biggest consequences are the elderly and the vulnerable, who become even more isolated – it increases what you call social exclusion. And not only for old people but for kids as well. It’s the consequences that don’t get thought through, this is what concerns me.

“I’m quite happy to sit on a cross-party team just to see if there is a better way. Nobody can be certain until you look, so one suggestion is that we examine the way we work at the moment, let’s see if there is a better way, let’s see if we can effect some cost savings out of it which means that we don’t have to cut and slash the services which we’ve already got.”

He was also critical of the bus company’s approach. “You can’t cherry-pick the service, if you want to run a bus service, you run them all, you take the rough with the smooth, there’s no other business on Planet Earth which has got a God-given right to have just good business. Everybody has some bad business and they have to deal with it.”

See also There won’t be any buses, but if there were, they would have wifi!

Posted 18:51 Wednesday, Dec 3, 2014 In: Campaigns

Also in: Campaigns

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