OK, I saw it coming – I knew the bus-unfriendly Guy McGregor, SCC portfolio-holder for Transport and Highways, was out to do it – but it still makes me angry!
Woodbridge has now lost ALL its evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday bus services – victims to the prejudices of a portfolio-holder who treats buses as if they were Babes in the Wood – to be led out into the woods and lost, their pathetic corpses buried under leaves. He then has the brass neck to boast on his website that: ” I have driven the improvement in the provision of bus services in Suffolk.” To carry on the Panto metaphor “OH NO you haven’t!!!” You are presiding over its demise!
[Here I had to stop writing to take an urgent call from my constituent, the septuagenarian dancer John Raven who relies on the buses – particularly the 62a and b – as he travels to and from Ipswich’s Regent theatre daily, often in the evening. Mr Raven and I met years ago, as we travelled to Ipswich by bus. Neither he or his wife can drive, they both find it hard to walk far, and they live a good half an hour’s walk from the train station (which will bring him into the wrong side of Ipswich). This cut will devastate his life. But is he devastated? NO! instead the feisty Mr Raven is LIVID and he’s out to tell people so. Mr Raven is not taken in by weasel words: he recognises that Cllr McGregor is figurehead for a regime that simply diesn’t care]
It seems Mr McGregor’s desire is to be shot of the subsidised public bus services to rural areas – a lifeline to many people in the countryside who cannot afford, or are unable (by reasons of health, age and poverty) to drive. Not that Mr McGregor puts it so directly. Indeed he drips honeytonged appeasement. Its not that he’s cutting the services – oh no – far from it. Mr Mcgregor merely plans to ‘remodel’ much of Suffolk’s rural transport, by replacing services with a ‘demand-responsive’ alternative, one that (he fails to mention) has to be booked a day in advance and is not available outside working hours.
And he certainly doesn’t mention that the money to underpin this Demand Responsive Solution to the death of the subsidised scheduled bus services was taken out of his capital expenditure budget a full year before the NSD was mentioned.
Bus users of Woodbridge, your valued local service didn’t fall – it was pushed!
Let’s be clear here – talking about demand responsive transport solutions is a load of meretricious tosh if you referring to buses like the 62a and the 62b. Why? Well, if you press them, SCC officers admit that:
“demand responsive transport operates between 0700 and 1900 Monday to Saturday and we are unable to offer any extension to these hours”.
So our 62a and 62b services will therefore not be replaced with demand responsive transport: they will be replaced with nothing at all, and residents in Woodbridge will have NO sustainable transport in the evenings, on Sundays and on Bank Holidays.
Those residents who do not have, cannot afford to, or are unable to drive a car, will be left sitting at home!
Last week I suggested to Mr McGregor that he was targeting his transport cuts disproportionately at Suffolk’s sustainable transport as I questioned his part in the SCC proposed budget for next year. He agreed that this was the case, but added
“When they were consulted, residents in Suffolk said they were saddened that these cuts were happening, but they know the reasons why they have to occur.”
Oh yes, we DO know the reasons why our buses are being cut, Mr McGregor! Its because you prefer to add a couple of millions to the already bloated roads budget than give a moment’s concern to those residents of Suffolk who do not drive cars. That’s what saddens us! Decisions are being made on our behalf by someone who doesn’t care a hoot for buses, nor for the people who use buses, and most of all, for the plight of the people who have no option but to use buses!
While I remember, it was at this very same Cabinet meeting that Jane Storey, deputy leader of the SCC administration, and arch apologist for the New Strategic Direction really excelled herself. In bringing next year’s budget to Cabinet she had the unmitigated CRUST to say (with an ineffable blend of complacency and certainty), that this budget – yes the one that is cutting school traffic patrols, divesting libraries, abolishing the explore card and stopping the very buses that rural people most need “will deliver first class services to the people of Suffolk. ”
Oh, and she also added that the administration have “tried to prioritise the vulnerable in our society.”
I kid you not! I wrote her words down as she spoke them so I could make sure to pass them on in all their appalling glory!
Cllr Storey, like Cllr McGregor , you seem to have the same relationship to services for the vulnerable as the Wicked Uncle had to the Babes in the Wood. Oh yes you DO!
Oh NO you dont???
Well why not put your money where your mouths are, and forgo your cuts to essential and irreplaceable services in favour of supporting the most vulnerable of Suffolk’s road users – those who are dependent on your subsidised buses!
Residents of Woodbridge, and beyond – if you wish to persuade Cllrs McGregor, Storey et al of the error of their ways and hope for a regular panto Transformation Scene, please sign the online petition
Or you can sign a paper copy in Woodbridge’s Shire Hall. We MUST keep reminding them that this is a bad thing to do – or they might carry on thinking that it’s prefectly ok.