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Buses test case to challenge subsidy cuts

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A transport lobby has launched legal action against Cambridgeshire CC’s decision to scrap all its bus service subsidies.

The case will turn on whether councils have a duty to provide public transport to areas unserved by commercial routes, or simply have the power to choose to do this.

Local resident Jo Green is taking action supported by the Campaign for Better Transport.

Law firm Leigh Day will argue that Cambridgeshire has failed to comply with duties under the Transport Act 1985, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

Ms Green’s solicitor Rosa Curling said: “The council has very clear legal duties with which it has failed to comply.

“It has decided to cut funding to buses without properly involving the public in its decision making process or assessing how this cut will affect those using the current service.

“For this reason, we have advised our client that unless the council agrees to reconsider, we will have no option but to issue proceedings.”

Leigh Day said that the Transport Act 1985 stated that councils must “secure the provision of such public passenger transport services as the council considers appropriate to meet any public transport requirements which would not otherwise be met”, and “ensure bus services are provided where they are socially necessary and would not otherwise be provided commercially”.

It has claimed the other three Acts have been breached because of a failure to consider the impact on affected groups.

Cambridgeshire decided in February to cut all bus subsidies as contracts end over four years, saving £2.98m.

Only two other councils have made such a drastic cut, Northamptonshire CC and Hartlepool BC.

CBT bus campaigner Sophie Allain said: “We don’t believe that a complete withdrawal of all socially necessary buses can be compatible with the duty to meet people’s public transport needs.

“Ultimately the responsibility for this lies with central Government front-loading council spending cuts and they need to make sure councils have adequate funding to support public transport.”

Ms Green said she had mounted the challenge because the service would leave her reliant on costly taxis.

Cambridgeshire has said it will switch money from subsiding conventional buses into an integrated school, community and social services transport budget, from which small businesses and voluntary groups could bid to run minibuses.

A council spokesman said: “Unlike some authorities who have simply reduced services we are looking at revolutionising how local transport is delivered, which has real potential to create enterprise, employment and boost community transport.

“We have taken legal advice and have carried out consultations and will continue to fully engage with communities.”

 

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