Maidstone and The Weald MP Helen Grant along with her Kent colleagues has urged Kent County Council to rethink plans to cut subsidies to 78 bus services.
The letter penned by Dover MP Charlie Elphicke and signed by ten other MPs, including Mrs Grant was sent to Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council and called for the authority to explore alternative options for saving money.
It also seeks specific assurances on proposed cuts affecting schoolchildren. This is particularly pertinent to Helen as her constituency contains sixteen secondary schools, including all four of the grammar schools which take pupils from far-reaching areas. Only on Friday 24th November, Mrs Grant chaired a bus committee which was attended by a number of local schools, parents, local bus providers, and a representative from Kent County Council.
The bus committee chaired by Helen Grant MP has been established for a number of years but has recently expanded to include a wider range of stakeholders, due to the high number of concerns being received. The main focus of the group has always been to tackle the issues experienced by school children whilst travelling to school on the bus. The topics of discussion are often based on late running or unreliable services, capacity on routes, the young person's travel pass and engagement with schools and parents.
The committee has also in the past considered the important role of the bus in rural communities and how it can be a vital lifeline for elderly or isolated constituents.
On hearing the news of proposed cuts, Helen said:
"I am really disappointed, that just days after a very positive meeting with stakeholders, we hear that KCC are planning to cut subsidies to local buses. There is an important role for them to play as the county authority and whilst they may not have a statutory obligation to ensure children attend the school of their choice, I feel they could do more to ensure that children travelling from further distances are able to get to school.
This is a serious issue and I am seeing on the ground the frustration from schools and parents who are continually having to deal with children arriving late to school or being left deserted at the bus stop whilst buses at capacity drive past them.
I will continue my work within the committee I have been chairing for a number of years but it is vital that KCC work with me to try and resolve these problems."
The MPs go on in the letter to highlight other recent cuts to routes by KCC and commercial operators – and that further cuts are understandably causing concern amongst constituents. They also point out that KCC's plans contradict stated environmental aims, as well as the principles of many local quality bus partnerships the local authority has signed up to.
The letter states that KCC's proposed cuts to subsidies are far higher than those put forward by other councils, such as Norfolk and Cheshire East. To read the full letter click here.
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