Dial-A-Ride axed as Staffordshire bus funding is slashed
A last-ditch attempt to stop bus service cuts across Staffordshire has failed.
Staffordshire County Council currently supports the the county’s network of buses and Dial-A-Ride routes by paying out £2.6 million a year.
But at a meeting this week a decision to reduce the subsidy to £1.3m from April was made – meaning Dial-A-Ride will be axed, along with other routes.
The move was initially approved by cabinet chiefs but was called in by Labour leader, Councillor Sue Woodward, for further scrutiny.
Councillor Woodward said the decision will have a ‘significant impact’ on some of the most vulnerable people in Staffordshire, potentially isolating them.
Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, she said: “I feel the withdrawal of the subsidy is going to make things worse for residents at a time when our bus services are already lacking.
“It is disappointing that our MPs and other senior politicians across the county didn’t get involved with the consultation because the move will have a significant impact.
“Although the council have repeated their ambition to look after the most vulnerable people in our communities I am concerned that those who maintain their independence through using these buses may find themselves increasingly isolated.
“There is a health impact that comes from loneliness and we have an epidemic of this across the country, this will lead to higher costs for the county council in the future.
"There may also be businesses that depend on the people who use these services and this could lead to the end of them, which would be a big regret."
The move follows a public consultation, which involved 2,000 people.
Four options were given, with some raising fears over getting to the doctors, visiting friends and family and doing their shopping.
However, the changes will now officially go ahead in April.
Councillor Mark Deaville, cabinet member for commercial, said: “This has been an extremely comprehensive consultation and has been an example of good communication.
"We have had challenging conversations and discussed this in depth many times.
"We will ensure that this operation gets the best possible value for money and as many services as possible are kept."
Councillor Mike Parry questioned why the decision had been called-in and said: "This costs money to hold meetings like this and this decision seems to have been called in as a way of political point scoring simply because it isn't agreed with."