A grilling over council bus cuts

County Coun John Fillis receiving the 1,300 signature petition from Ursula Gallie at Caton Village Institute.
County Coun John Fillis receiving the 1,300 signature petition from Ursula Gallie at Caton Village Institute.

More than 100 people packed into Caton Village Institute on Monday night to grill the county council about its proposed bus subsidy cuts.

County Coun John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, told members of the public that contracts with bus companies were “a complete fiasco” and needed changing.

Lancashire County Council is proposing to cut subsidies to some evening, bank holiday and Sunday bus services to save £3.8m, and many of the proposed cuts are in rural areas, including the Lune Valley.

Ursula Gallie, from Caton, handed Coun Fillis a petition with 1,300 signatures calling for the council to think again.

Mr Fillis was told that the cuts would have a huge impact on people getting to and from work, making hospital visits in the evening, getting to and from The Dukes Theatre in Lancaster, and would effectively “trap people in their homes”.

Young people would also struggle to get to after school clubs and evening and weekend jobs, the meeting heard.

Coun Fillis said that currently the council subsidised 13m trips per year at a cost of £8m. Evening and weekend trips accounted for 1.16m of these but at a cost of £3.8m.

He added that he wanted to make the profitable pay for the non-profitable routes, and said that on average in Lancashire, bus companies made a 22 per cent profit on subsidised routes. The county council also have to save £300m in three years.

Alison Cahn, from Halton, said: “It seems like all the cards are stacked in favour of the bus companies and not for the county council or taxpayers. We can’t go on having contracts like this.”

Coun Fillis said that “bus companies don’t want to talk to me”, but Stagecoach in Cumbria and North Lancashire said afterwards that it had not been contacted by anyone from the county council with regards cuts to subsidies.

A spokesman added: “We look forward to the opportunity to meet with council officers to work with them to arrive at the best outcome for our passengers and the communities that we serve.”

County councillors are due to make a decision on the cuts on Thursday, February 20.