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MPs should be asking government for more money to save community bus services - Tory county councillor

By Paul Francis

Conservative MPs protesting about county council plans to cut community bus services have been taken to task by a senior county councillor.

Eleven MPs signed a joint letter to KCC leader Paul Carter making a blistering attack on the proposed cuts that could affect 78 socially necessary bus routes.

They demanded a rethink, warning that they could not support the cuts which are aimed at saving £4m.

Kent County Council was considering plans to cut subsidies to 78 bus services across the county
Kent County Council was considering plans to cut subsidies to 78 bus services across the county

But in a sign of what looks like descending into an increasingly rancorous argument, one Conservative councillor has rebuked the MPs, saying they should be pressing the government to give cash-pressed councils more money.

Cllr Bryan Sweetland, a former cabinet member for transport, said that while there was concern about the impact of the reductions, MPs should be focusing their complaints on the government.

The Gravesham Rural councillor said: “I can't really disagree with the points they [MPs] are making, in some parts of Kent, the reduction in the council taxpayer subsidy to the bus companies may well affect the elderly and school children and nobody wants that."

"But this is the seventh year that KCC has been forced to make savings of around £60m, year on year, and reducing local council budgets has been a government policy, voted on by MPs. The county council has been very prudent each year with setting its budget but it now seems that the money is no longer there. Our MPs should really be discussing this with the Chancellor.”

But in a sign that the proposals are proving politically divisive, one Conservative council leader has welcomed the intervention of the MPs.

Cllr Simon Cook, the leader of Canterbury city council, said: “It is a very welcome intervention and they are representing their constituents. Making KCC think long and hard about whether this is the right decision is what they should be doing.”

He was speaking on the latest edition of KMTV's "Paul On Politics."

In their letter, MPs say the cuts are “difficult to defend” and that it was vital KCC listened to people’s concerns.

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