Council cushions impact of bus review

More of the borough’s subsidised buses will stay on the road than initially proposed following residents’ feedback to Cheshire East Council’s public consultation.

The council’s cabinet today (Tuesday) approved a proposal to reduce the amount of money it intended to save by around £500,000.

The council has responded to the consultation feedback by retaining bus access to some 99 per cent of residents who currently have access to a bus.

The council had intended to seek savings of £1.57m but has agreed to propose a reduction in savings to just over £1m, meaning more services will be subsidised than originally planned, keeping some essential routes operating.

The council went out to public consultation earlier this year to seek the views of residents on the possible withdrawal of evening and weekend services and the reorganisation of daytime services.

In total, 3,959 responses to the consultation were received.  The council took into account a number of factors before arriving at its final network of supported services.

The assessment process considered the coverage of services throughout the borough, the needs of the elderly and other concessionary users.

Councillor Paul Bates, cabinet member for finance and communication, said: “We face challenging financial constraints and we recognise that some of our residents will be affected by a reduction in services.

“We have had to make some tough decisions but we feel that we have met many of the concerns expressed in the consultation feedback by re-configuring some routes and retaining the subsidy on routes where the removal of services would have resulted in hardship.

“I want to thank all those people who took the trouble to contribute to the consultation and we would like to see residents making greater use of our buses, where practicable, so that car dependency across the borough is reduced.”

Operators are to be invited to provide costs for evening services on some key routes and the council will award tenders, which offer best value, taking in duration of route-working through the day and evening.

Unfortunately the council will not be able to support Sunday bus services unless they are totally self-sustaining. Withdrawing these services would have less social impact than withdrawing other services.

Also in response to residents’ feedback, the council is to secure additional Monday-to-Friday daytime services connecting Congleton, Leighton Hospital, Alsager, Rode Heath, Scholar Green, Sandbach and Goostrey.

Proposed changes to the borough’s ‘Little Bus’ service will be delayed to ensure that the service is not over-subscribed.

Although savings are estimated at more than £1m – rather than the £1.57m originally planned – an accurate financial position will not be known until the tendering and procurement process has completed.

Full details of routes and adapted services can be found at www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/busreview

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