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Subsidised bus services in limbo after Cllr Matthew Balfour leaves job in favour of Mike Whiting

By Paul Francis

Plans to cut dozens of bus services subsidised by the county council are in limbo after the politician in charge of roads and transport at Kent County Council lost his job.

Cabinet member Cllr Matthew Balfour has been moved out of the role and will be replaced by Cllr Mike Whiting, who was re-elected in last year’s election.

The switch comes just days before the county council was due to launch a public consultation on the proposals that are aimed at saving £4m over the next two years.

Matthew Balfour, KCC cabinet member for environment and transport

Matthew Balfour, KCC cabinet member for environment and transport

There has been speculation that Mr Balfour may have paid the price for the way in which the controversial plans to cut back on socially necessary bus routes emerged.

However, he has denied that, saying only that he was given no specific reason by KCC leader Paul Carter.

"It’s been a real privilege and a pleasure to work with the KCC officers responsible for our road network, planning and the environment and I wish them well for the future," he said.

Mr Balfour is councillor for Malling Rural East and took on the cabinet job three years ago.

The disclosure that there could be cuts to dozens of routes subsidised by the council to help save £4m provoked a furious backlash, with criticisms coming from schools, community groups and even from Kent MPs.

They wrote a stinging letter criticising the proposed changes to some 70 bus services saying KCC should re-think the plans.

Mike Whiting

Mike Whiting

The letter from ten MPs said: “These services are vital for elderly people, allowing them to get into towns to go shopping, visit relatives or attend doctor appointments. schoolchildren, disabled people and low earners also face being cut off.”

KCC leader Paul Carter had recently said that the release of the details about the proposals for bus cuts was premature and announced he was taking personal charge of the issue - something which led to speculation about Mr Balfour's future.

In a statement confirming the news, KCC leader Paul Carter said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Matthew for his hard work and dedication as Cabinet Member for the past three years.”

Cllr Mike Whiting said: “I am delighted to have been offered the opportunity to return to Cabinet and am looking forward to the challenge ahead. “

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