CONTROVERSIAL proposals to cut bus subsidies for community transport services have been given the go ahead.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) suggested scrapping free concessionary travel on the PlusBus and Women’s Safe Transport services.
The proposal was included in a series of measures designed to save £250,000 a year but community groups said the cutbacks targeted the most vulnerable.
The changes were approved by the council’s executive when it met.
Cllr Lynn Riley, executive member for community and environment, said the authority had to make savings due to significant funding reductions.
She said: “When it comes to transport we spend a lot of money.
“We have to be realistic that just because something may be free at the point of access does not make it free to deliver.”
Concessionary travel pass holders currently travel free on community transport services with 84,000 passenger trips each year.
But under the proposals, pass holders will be charged £2 per single passenger trip with the council estimating the move will save about £80,000.
Council support for evening and Sunday community transport services is also due to be withdrawn, saving an additional £30,000.
Cllr David Robinson, who represents Boughton, said the cuts were wrong and would have significant consequences for users.
He said: “As soon as you start attacking services there are a number of people who start to suffer.
“There has been no consultation whatsoever on these community services.
“This package of £250,000 savings will be seen as an attack on the most vulnerable.”
Other measures put forward included scrapping half fare travel before 9.30am between Monday and Friday and allowing fares on council-supported services to be increased more than once a year.
Fares on non-statutory school and college transport services may rise by 50 per cent from £1.50 to £2.25, bringing in an extra £40,000 annually, and the council also wanted to change the way it decides which services to support and create a public transport forum.
Cllr Riley said critics of the changes needed a “reality check” as many other councils had already made far greater cuts.
Executive members approved all the recommended measures, except the creation of the new public transport forum.
See full story in the Chester Leader