Stone residents are being encouraged to have their say on how the budget for subsidising bus travel in in the county can be best spent.
All bus journeys made in Staffordshire are operated by either private bus companies or by voluntary and community organisations. Although more than 90 per cent of these trips are made without any subsidy, the county council currently pays as much as £10 per passenger journey where there are too few people using them or not enough money paid to make the service commercially viable.
Age Concern Stone and District Voluntary Car Scheme is the only current subsidised service in the Stone area, but there are many in the surrounding areas. In 2016, the council agreed to review these subsidised journeys and has now put forward four options on how the smaller £1.3m subsidy “pot” could be best spent next year.
A range of factors have been considered for the options, including: the amount of subsidy, number of passengers, education, employment and health travel and access to other public transport. Although no decision has been made, the preferred option would maintain the greatest number of journeys currently subsidised.
Mark Deaville, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for transport, said: “All bus journeys in Staffordshire are operated by private bus companies or voluntary and community groups – and 90 per cent of these are made without any subsidy. However, some people might be surprised to hear that we do still subsidise some journeys on buses by much as £10 per passenger trip because they can’t be run on a commercial basis.
“As a county council we have to balance how much of taxpayers’ money we can afford to spend on subsiding travel against the need to protect the funding of statutory services such as adult social care. This year we will need to spend a record £300m on care alone.
“Some authorities have stopped subsidising buses, but in Staffordshire £1.3m will still be spent on this next year and the public consultation is the chance for people to have their say on subsidised bus travel and how the budget we have available for next year can be best spent.”
In brief the options are:
- Option 1: This is the preferred option as it maintains the greatest number of journeys currently subsidised by the county council – and the lowest subsidy per passenger trip at £1.60. There would be no Dial-A-Ride services
- Option 2: Maintains fewer bus journeys, but maintains the South Staffordshire and Staffordshire Moorlands Connect. These Dial-A-Ride services would be subsidised at £8.20 per passenger trip
- Option 3: Protects even fewer supported local bus services, but keeps all four existing Dial-A-Ride services, except Border Car, at an £8.80 subsidy per trip
- Option 4: Provides a county-wide network of dial-a-ride services at an average cost of £10 per passenger journey. No other bus journeys will be subsidised
As well as continuing to subsidise some journeys the council remains committed to helping the community and voluntary schemes to flourish.
Do you currently use the subsidised services? Would any of the options above affect your ability to get around? Let us know in the comments, and full details of the options and how to have your say will be available when the consultation goes live on July 24 at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/busreview
The consultation runs for eight weeks and closes on September 17. People can have their say online or find out more at their local libraries from later that week. The final option will be agreed by Cabinet in the autumn and changes implemented in April 2018.