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'Savage cuts' to bus services will affect elderly across Devon and Cornwall

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 20, 2013

Bob Crow

Comments (11)

One of the country's most powerful unions is leading a campaign against "savage cuts" to bus services in the Westcountry.

The RMT has promised to fight plans by two major providers to axe a series of "lifeline" routes in Cornwall following proposals to scrap other services in Devon.

A number of services by Western Greyhound across the Duchy will be withdrawn, while First Group may terminate routes in Falmouth.

RMT expressed concerns that the move may lead to a "domino effect" on other services across the region.

Bob Crow, general secretary, said: "These savage cuts to services on South West buses could well open the floodgates to an all-out attack which would decimate lifeline services across whole communities as the bus companies wheel out a pack of excuses to justify cherry-picking the profitable routes."

The union also warned the savings would particularly hit older people, the poor as well as those with disabilities – and could effectively cut off entire communities.

RMT added that the plans "made a mockery" of a recent Transport Select Committee report pressing the Government to increase disabled access to transport.

Western Greyhound managing director Mark Howarth said the changes came after "extensive negotiations" between the company and council officers.

In a letter to staff, he said: "We have been notified that due to budget cuts, Cornwall Council will be withdrawing financial support for a number of services, some of which are operated by Western Greyhound."

Routes to go from November 3 include its Penzance and Hayle operation, the 530 in Bude and the 561 Camelford-Wadebridge-Bodmin service.

Mr Howarth promised "most evening and Sunday journeys will be retained" and said he hoped that Cornwall Council would find money for "partial replacements" in the form of community buses or other alternatives to replace the withdrawn bus routes.

A formal consultation has begun for affected staff and job losses are yet to be finalised, he added.

Several remote villages will be affected by the cuts, including in North Cornwall where the 530 runs to villages including Morwenstow and Kilkhampton, and on Bodmin Moor where the 561 serves St Breward and St Tudy.

Cornwall Council said it was working to protect services, with around 90% of the network currently provided by First Group and Western Greyhound.

Bert Biscoe, cabinet member for transport and waste, acknowledged that one of the proposals put forward by Western Greyhound "was to withdraw all their services from the Penwith area".

He said: "We recognise the impact this would have on local communities and have been endeavouring to work with the company to identify alternative options.

"Ultimately, however, this is a commercial decision for the bus operator."

A First Group spokesman told the Western Morning News that "big substantial changes" to its services would be announced by the end of September.

The latest changes come after it announced in July plans to stop running bus services in North Devon and close its Barnstaple depot.

Cornwall and Falmouth councillor Candy Atherton said the cuts would "trap people in their homes".

"I am appalled that First have not told the town council or ensured that people knew what was happening," she added.

Bernard O'Neil, secretary of the National Pensioners Convention in Cornwall, warned the cuts would have a "big impact" on older people living in the Duchy.

"It will have a knock-on effect all the through. If people can't go out, they will become isolated, which could lead to mental health problems affecting the NHS," he said.

Mr Crow added: "RMT will step up our campaigning work with the communities to stand up and fight these cuts."

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  • Doitdreckley  |  September 23 2013, 11:39AM

    Cutting councillors allowances and the pay of senior officers would only be a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed. Cornwall Council has already made £170m of cuts in the last 3 years and needs to make another £200m in the next 6. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government can find enough money for the things it wants (Thatcher's funeral, a potential war on Syria, bank holidays for royal events, celebration of the end of WW1, the Olympics etc etc) but not the things that it does not believe in despite of their necessity. It was an international financial crisis precipitated by the collapse of the housing sector and irresponsible lending in the USA that led to the financial collapse. Charles' memory is deliberately poor. Labour nationalised some of the banking sector (which added to the debt) but they had to otherwise there would have been panic on the streets. It was the banking collapse and the actions of the bankers that left the economy in such a parlous state, nothing to do with Government spending which was needed after years of neglect by the previous Tory Governments.

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  • Gray339  |  September 20 2013, 9:27PM

    Yet again the South West gets hit with more cuts this time its transport, and our wonderful MPs here in the south west do nothing as their silence speaks volumes.

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  • yveyk  |  September 20 2013, 9:15PM

    If anyone gets the planning from Cormac, you will find that they are still plugging away at the transport network and spending money on upgrading bus stops. If Cornwall council stopped messing around with the money and employing Cormac to muck up the roads and the infrastructure there might be money for essential road repairs and the infrastructure instead of messing with speed limits and bus stops.

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  • youngcornwall  |  September 20 2013, 8:11PM

    If you want the peace and tranquillity of living in rural areas this is what comes with it, rural transport, and the lack of it.

  • rozel  |  September 20 2013, 5:04PM

    The politicians you voted into power would prefer to spend your money on "war efforts" rather than rural transport. Bear this in mind next time you are asked to vote unless you are influenced by a return to the "rotten borough" idea of voting for the candidate who buys most beer for voters in the pub on election day.

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  • Charlespk  |  September 20 2013, 4:40PM

    Vote UKIP. Nigel Farage v Tony Blair. http://tinyurl.com/c4j2wtr (open in a new window)

    |   2
  • Charlespk  |  September 20 2013, 4:32PM

    Lest the destructive Left forget their total incompetence and what they bequeathed the nation. http://tinyurl.com/3w98qx7

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  • josdave  |  September 20 2013, 4:15PM

    Sadly this is going to get worse as year on year the council is going to get less from the government while at the same time being expected to provide the same level of services. A 10 year old could tell you that it can't be done. Meanwhile the bankers who are the cause of all this austerity carry on living the high life in the knowledge that this non-caring government will do nothing about it.

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  • Derbyite  |  September 20 2013, 12:44PM

    "The latest changes come after it announced in July plans to stop running bus services in North Devon and close its Barnstaple depot." That was July *2012*. The Barnstaple depot closed over a year ago. And Stagecoach are doing a much better job!

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  • Dantwo  |  September 20 2013, 11:02AM

    An absolute disgrace. I know at least half a dozen people - all elderly - who rely on these buses to get around in Penwith. If no replacements are found they will be forced to sell their homes. If Cornwall Council wants to save money it can start by reducing the pay of its senior officers, portfolio holders and the excessive remuneration made to councillors in general.

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