Funding cuts to bus subsidies in York to be less than planned

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Threatened bus services in York have been granted a small measure of reprieve as council leaders step in to slash planned funding cuts by £160,000 after a public consultation.

Councillors had been asked to approve £350,000 worth of cuts to bus subsidies, but at Thursday’s executive meeting voted instead to agree a second option.

Ian Gillies, City of York Council

Ian Gillies, City of York Council

This “mitigating measure” would instead see subsidies slashed by the lesser sum of £250,000 - resulting in a smaller measure of cuts than first feared.

But, say councillors it is still a loss of some services and more could be coming.

“Nobody likes to take off the buses,” said Coun Ian Gillies, executive member for transport and planning for City of York Council. “We are looking to mitigate it somewhat. But the overall message is ‘use it or lose it’. We can’t afford to subsidise forever.”

All of York’s buses are run privately, with around 20 per cent receiving a council subsidy.

Councillors had agreed in February it needed to make savings of £350,000 to bus subsidies.

Plans were drawn up for changes to evening and Sunday services, with a consultation drawing more than 1,000 responses.

Most controversial of the preferred measures was a plan to scrap the Number 20 service. This plan sparked public outrage, with fearful residents expressing concerns that the elderly would be left isolated, while children would be unable to get to school.

Joseph Rowntree and Huntingdon secondary schools also wrote to the council, and four petitions submitted with 800 signatures.

The option agreed will still see cuts to some evening and Sunday services and the Number 20 service will be significantly reduced, its contract put out to tender.

“We have reduced the route of the number 20, it will now only operate between Rawcliffe and Monks Cross,” said Coun Gillies, adding that the lost savings of £160,000 would still have to be found somewhere.

“We will have to revisit the situation. Hopefully usage can be improved before it comes back to bite us next year.

“Nobody wants to get rid of buses. If we subsidise them, someone, somewhere else, is going to lose out.”