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Lancaster MP releases full text of his objection to County Council bus cuts

John Freeman
Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw has released the full text of his formal submission to the Consultation on Subsidised Bus Services being carried out by Lancashire County Council.

As we previously reported, Mr Ollerenshaw is firmly opposed to the cuts, but in his submission he challenges the Council on the nature of the consultation itself noting that the the proposed savings "already appear in your budget plans, thus leading many people to believe that the decision has already been made".

His concerns echo those of transport expert Professor John Whitelegg, who told virtual-lancaster he doesn't have any expectations that they will pay any notice to opposition to their plans.

"In line with all other county council consultations, such as school closures, the results will not make a jot of difference to the outcome," he feels.

Here is Mr Ollerenshaw's letter.
Dear Sir/Madam

I write to submit formally my objections to the proposal to withdraw subsidies to evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday Bus services across Lancashire.

Clearly these have a bigger impact on rural areas with the villages of Preesall, Knott End, Pilling, Cockerham, Glasson Dock, Galgate, Caton, Brookhouse and Wray particularly badly hit in my constituency. But at the same time some of the most vulnerable people in urban centres such as Fleetwood and Lancaster will also be hit, particularly in Lancaster on the outlying Council Estates of the Ridge and the Marsh.
I accept that these are difficult financial times, but given your apparent willingness to take on virtual unlimited liabilities in your new ownership of the Preston Bus Station, you clearly have alternative funding available that might be better used maintaining these vital bus services.
At the same time with the roll out of Broadband across Lancashire and new developments in mobile phone technology these do have the potential to help customers better access bus times and availability and thereby unlock greater passenger take up of these services.

The detrimental effects of these cuts are wide-ranging and will impact some of the most vulnerable in my constituency. For older people who do not have a car or cannot afford to use a taxi, these cuts will result in social exclusion and isolation as well as denying them access to vital services in the evening and on Sundays. Many older residents will struggle to attend the hospital, doctors and other medical appointments for themselves,  as well as no longer being able to visit family or friends in hospital.  Both older and younger people alike will be denied access to social and entertainment venues as well as being able to shop, visit a friend or just have a day out.

For the younger people in our communities they will also be denied the opportunity to access educational and social opportunities – such as after-school activities and clubs and sports facilities.

These cuts will also have the same effect on those people who are on low incomes and do not have their own transport and also carers who may no longer be able to regularly visit those they care for.

Many people who use public transport to and from work will find themselves stranded should they not work Monday – Friday from 9-5 and at a financial loss if they are forced to travel by taxi.  With the worst case scenario being that they will have to give up their employment due to them no longer being able to return home in the evening.

These cuts could also prevent friends and families from visiting each over causing further isolation and again this is particularly acute in the rural areas.

All residents who do not drive will struggle to access shops and local services – something which will have a detrimental effect on the local economy with more people being unable to use small independent retailers.

Many local pubs and restaurants and other social centres such as the cinema and theatres will see a decrease in trade with both ‘locals’ and tourists being unable to access them in the evening and Sundays.  And even places of worship may see a down-turn in their congregations as people will no longer be able to attend due to a lack of transport.

Where there are no alternate routes many will find it difficult to access other forms of public transport.  For those people who do not wish to remain trapped in their homes they will be either forced into using private transport increasing both traffic and the risk of accidents and unfortunately the possibility of seeing an increase in ‘drink-driving’ as many people will not be able to afford to use a taxi for an evening out.

Home to hospital transport will be stretched as many patients who are quite capable of taking a bus will no longer be able to do so, putting a greater financial burden elsewhere.  Patients may well find themselves alone and isolated in their hospital beds as their friends and family are no longer able to visit.

In summary, these cuts will have devastating and wide ranging  effects on both rural villages and towns alike and will hit every member of our community who does not own a car.

I also  feel the timing and the short notice of this ‘consultation’ is indeed questionable and am further concerned that while you state you are consulting, the proposed savings already appear in your budget plans, thus leading many people to believe that the decision has already been made.

In light of these effects, the overwhelming objections that I am sure you have received and the small financial saving that will be made, I would urge you to reconsider these proposals and look to make savings without cutting, what is in effect, a vital and front line service.


Eric Ollerenshaw

• The consultation period ends on 17th January with the 2014 budget decided at a full County Council meeting on 20 February. The county council would like to hear any comments you may have on the proposals that have been put forward:

Campaign for Better Transport "Save Our Buses" Camapign 

• View the Campaign for Better Transport's interactive bus cuts map which makes transparent the extent of the problem of local authority funding cuts to buses across the country. This map is a crowd sourcing project, which means the CBT are asking you to help us track bus cuts 

County Council documents on affected services (PDF links)