Bus cuts – the fight’s not over yet says angry MP

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Local MP Norman Baker last week desclared that the fight against cuts to subsidised bus budgets is not over.

He has made formal complaints to the Chief Executive of East Sussex County Council and to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors are to ‘call-in’ the Cabinet’s decision to slash services.

Mr Baker asked Chief Executive Becky Shaw to declare invalid the decision taken by the council’s Tory-only Cabinet to overrule the will of the county council as a whole.

At its last meeting the council voted by a clear majority not to proceed with the bus cuts which the Cabinet has now voted to push through. Mr Baker has also written to Eric Pickles to ask him to rule on the lawfulness of the Cabinet’s actions.

Mr Baker said, “It is a constitutional outrage for the Conservatives, who do not have a majority on the county council, to simply ignore the majority view of the council as a whole. How can a handful of members from just one group trump the majority view, as openly voted on?

“The Conservatives have already shown they don’t care about those in rural areas who will now be left with a pittance of a bus service. To that they have now added the insufferable arrogance of thinking they have the right to overrule the majority will of the council as a whole.”

In a further challenge, Lib Dem and Labour councillors have come together to require the Cabinet decision to be subject to a “call-in”. The charge is headed by Lewes and Ringmer Lib Dem county councillor Rosalyn St Pierre, backed by Eastbourne Lib Dem Pat Rodohan, and Hastings Labour councillor John Hodges. No cuts can be implemented while this process is live.

Mr Baker added, “These bus cuts must not go ahead. They are wrong economically, environmentally, socially and constitutionally. The Tories say they can’t afford to keep the services going, but the cost of doing so is a mere fraction of the tens of millions they are blowing on their pet scheme, the highly questionable Hastings-Bexhill link road.”

An East Sussex County Council spokesperson said, “The reformulated bus network agreed by Cabinet safeguards 90 out of 101 subsidised services.

“Under the changes 91 per cent of all current passengers on the East Sussex bus network would be unaffected, and more than 95 per cent would still have access to a six-day-a-week service, Monday to Saturday. Cabinet agreed that Dial a Ride services currently funded by ESCC, will continue to operate for between four and six days a week to lessen the impact of the changes.

“As with the majority of other councils, both locally and nationally, East Sussex County Council operates under a Cabinet system. This system is governed by legislation which decides whether or not Cabinet makes the decision. A decision taken by Cabinet cannot be declared invalid by the Chief Executive.”