Campaigners, who fought a relentless battle in the Ribble Valley against bus cuts, had their hopes dashed when county councillors went ahead with the £7.5m.cuts to the subsidies.
The news was greeted with disappointment and anger and MP Nigel Evans has even called on Ribble Valley Council to separate from Lancashire County Council in what he describes as the controlling Labour group’s “mismanagement.’’
He said: “The budget has victimised the most vulnerable people in Lancashire and the people of the Ribble Valley are being let down. The county council were in a position to make different choices but they ave spent huge amounts of money on consultants to tell them how to save money.”
Dozens of campaigners from Chipping demonstrated outside county hall ahead of the meeting last Thursday before packing into the public gallery to watch the debate that went on for several hours with the bus cuts being one of the most contentious issues.
Mrs Sharon Pinkett, who led a group of protestors from Chipping, said: “We are disgusted that the county council have done this. This is going to leave people cut off in the most rural areas but no-one seems to care about that.’’
Mrs Pinkett has now thrown down a challenge to County Coun. Jennifer Mein the leader of Lancashire County Council, and several other county councillors, asking them to go to Chipping and see how they can get around using public transport.
Mrs Pinkett added: “I would like them to see for themselves the difficulties we are now going to face.’’
News that a cash pot of £3m. has been set aside to fund solutions for the worst hit areas came as little comfort to protestors even though the money could be used to stave off the immediate scrapping of subsidised bus services because it will also be set aside to find ways of funding alternative operators for the county’s museums that are under threat of closure. Mr Evans is to hold talks with Communities Secretary Greg Clark about the possibility of top slicing money from the county to give to district councils like Ribble Valley to run their own bus services. Talks are also on going between the county council and bus operators about running certain services on a commercial basis. Clitheroe protestor Mr Stewart Kent said he had spoke to dozens of bus users who had said they would be prepared to pay a small amount to keep the services on the roads.
There was some good news for the elderly and disabled using transport to day centres when it was announced that these services will continue with the county using its own fleet of travel care buses.