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Bus routes cut or merged as Kent County Council bids to save £400,000 on rural routes

By KentOnline reporter

Cuts to some rural bus services in Kent are on the agenda under county council plans to shave £400,000 from its transport budget.

Transport chiefs say the proposals due to go out to public consultation shortly are “relatively low impact” but will, if agreed, mean some services withdrawn completely, fewer services on some routes and mergers with other services.

In some cases, KCC says it has negotiated with commercial operators to take on the service.

Some rural bus routes could be affected by cuts. Stock image

The authority’s consultation document says it has exhausted opportunities to save money and “it is necessary to reduce some service areas.”

The council has already identified savings of £680,000 from the budget it says has been achieved without reducing services, which are often considered a lifeline for the elderly and others in rural areas.

But that falls short of the savings target of £1m.

Under the proposals, about 17 routes could be affected, with several seeing later evening services dropped and others operating for fewer days of the week.

A cut in government grants means that Kent’s budget for buses will drop to £5.6m from £6.5m this year.

Despite the budget cuts, the council says that last year, it subsidised 150 buses that would otherwise not run to the tune of £6.4m.

Cllr Matthew Balfour (Con), cabinet member for transport, said that the council would take into account the public’s views.

“This is why we are putting these plans out for public consultation. We want to make sure that we pick up on any effects people feel there may be.”

Ukip opposition spokesman Cllr Mike Baldock said the council should look elsewhere for savings.

"KCC may call it something else but these are cuts in services valued by many people in rural towns and villages" - Cllr Mike Eddy

“They could stop an increase in the arts and culture budget, for example or not invest £2m in computer maintenance. KCC should take a harder approach to bus companies.

"These services are not commuter services but are there to help people get to shops or go to medical appointments,” he said.

Labour spokesman Cllr Mike Eddy: “The government has cut massively the money available for public transport.

"KCC may call it something else but these are cuts in services valued by many people in rural towns and villages.”

Consultation on the services affected will get under way later this month and end in May.

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