Bus services to be slashed in Louth and Horncastle - despite council's promise not to cut subsidies

Opposition councillors have reacted with dismay over reports that vital bus services, such as the Louth-Horncastle service and the Louth Nipper, are set to be slashed next month.
Call Connect services - a lifeline to rural communities EMN-160129-132927001Call Connect services - a lifeline to rural communities EMN-160129-132927001
Call Connect services - a lifeline to rural communities EMN-160129-132927001

Comparison between old and new bus timetables show that from April 5, the 6C service (Louth-Horncastle) will be reduced from four runs in each direction per day, to just two runs in each direction per day.

Likewise, the two Louth Nipper bus routes (40/40A) currently both have 11 runs per day, which will be reduced to just six runs per day.

Opposition county councillors have slammed the move, with the Labour Party releasing a statement which said: “At the County Council budget setting meeting on February 19, the Conservative administration promised not to cut bus subsidies. However, the new contract for the Louth Nipper and Louth/Horncastle routes had already been put out to tender by the county council, and it included severe cuts which saw the services virtually halved.

“This does not seem to have been withdrawn, despite the additional money.”

Coun Sarah Dodds (Louth North) said: “We’ve got to get the county council to rethink on this.

“It is not right that after promising to protect buses in the council chamber, the Tories have taken the first opportunity they have have to cut them.

“It is worrying not only for Louth, but also for the county. Are they going to cut all of the Lincolnshire bus network by stealth as each contract comes up for renewal?”

She added: “The Louth community fought really hard to get the Nipper and it is a much used, valued and loved service. The Louth-Horncastle route is a vital contributor to the health of our market town economy. Both must be saved.”

UKIP leader at the county council, Coun Colin Mair, accused the authority of “betraying” the public.

He said: “Everyone knows what was said last month, but the council is already going back on its words.

“It’s like Pontius Pilate all over again.

“They said that the extra £1.7 million meant there would be no cuts, but three weeks on, look what’s happening.

“I know it’s only certain routes, but just watch what happens. We’ll be talking county-wide cuts.”

This afternoon (March 11), Coun Richard Davies, executive member for highways and transportation, said: “The additional funding of £5.2m that we received from government in February has enabled the county council to make a commitment to continue to deliver a public transport service across the whole of the county. It also enabled us to protect winter maintenance and children’s centres budgets.

“We recognise that rural bus services are important to keep people connected, and without that extra funding, we would have lost over 100 subsidised bus services across Lincolnshire.

“We have to ensure that the budget is managed in a way that ensures value for money for the taxpayers of Lincolnshire. With regard to the public transport budget we have around 180 fixed route contracts costing in excess of £3M with a number of operators which are negotiated or tendered for on a regular basis. Any contract is subject to market forces such as the level of competition, cost increases and changes in the commercial bus network.

“Some of those bus service contracts have increased by 40-50%, and this is therefore likely to lead to reductions in the numbers of bus services that can be delivered. We’re continuing to work with bus operators to ensure we can make better use of services, that they are meeting people’s needs, and to avoid seeing empty buses travelling around the county.

“We are also looking at making better use of transport services for schools and adult social care, with the possibility that services for residents will increase in locations including Louth.”

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