Organisations campaign against bus cutbacks

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Indy Politics

Organisations ranging from beer drinkers to ramblers called on David Cameron today to do more to protect local buses.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the various groups urged him to ensure cutbacks do not damage the vital bus network.

The letter was organised by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT). Among groups signing the letter were the Campaign for Real Ale, the TUC, the Women's Institute and the Ramblers Association.

The letter comes just weeks after CBT launched a national Save Our Buses campaign and as councils in England are making their final budget decisions.

It is feared that as many as 70% of councils are looking to bus services as an area to make cuts.

CBT chief executive Stephen Joseph said: "I think it's clear from the variety of organisations who have signed the letter that bus cuts will affect everyone, whether you live in a city or the countryside, are employed or unemployed, young or old and, crucially, even if you are not a bus passenger.

"Failing to protect our local bus network could cost us dearly in terms of the social, economical and environmental consequences.

"We urge the Prime Minster to accept that central government has a share of the responsibility for this situation and can play a role in avoiding the worst impacts of these cuts."

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: "There is no question that the Con Dem cuts are targeting the buses and will massacre life-line transport services for millions in rural communities if they can get away with it.

"The U-turn on forests' privatisation shows that this shambles of an administration is there for the taking if we get our act together and the next battleground is our bus services."

Local and Regional Transport Minister Norman Baker said; "Nearly 80% of bus services outside London are commercially run so don't rely on direct funding from councils. There has been no cut in the financial support we provide for these services this year.

"We have also protected the concessionary travel scheme and we have made millions available for new green buses."

He went on: "I accept that the funding settlement for local authorities is challenging. It's good to see some councils are approaching this imaginatively, finding savings in procurement and council officers' salaries, however some are just reaching for the axe.

"It's part of the localism agenda that local people will now be able to hold their local authority to account if they disagree with decisions they have made."