Bus subsidy Cabinet decision stands following “call-in” scrutiny meeting

An Overview and Scrutiny committee of Bridgend County Borough Council has agreed not to ask the Cabinet to reconsider a decision to remove public transport subsidies.

Faced with a need to make savings of £36m in the next three years, the Cabinet of Bridgend County Borough Council had previously resolved to remove a £148,000 subsidy which was being paid to privately-owned public transport operators.

That decision was called in by the scrutiny committee amid concerns that removal of the subsidy had not been recommended by council officers, that the effect on community transport had not properly scrutinised, that there were over-capacity concerns and that visible scrutiny should take place.

During a two-hour debate, the committee heard from senior council officers and Cabinet members as well as members of the public who were invited to attend and speak at the meeting.

After committee members had an opportunity to ask questions, receive further information and debate the issue, instead of referring the decision back to Cabinet, they voted to let the decision stand.

Cllr Richard Young, Cabinet Member for Communities, said:

“This was another extremely difficult decision for Cabinet to make, and I was happy to be able to clarify the reasoning behind it.

“The decision was to cut the money paid out to private bus companies, not to cut the buses themselves, and it does not necessarily mean that a service will end.

“Indeed, five of the six services that saw their subsidy cut last year are continuing to run today.

“Nobody wants to be in the position of having to cut public services, but people have to face hard facts.

“We are almost in the tenth year of national austerity, and anyone who still thinks that councils can simply continue to provide the same services in the same way they always have is ignoring the reality that we are having to face up to.

“The truth of the matter is that the authority can no longer sustain such subsidies, especially when they are paid to profit-making companies.

“I said at the time the decision was made that we will do all that we can to mitigate the potential effect of this, and will continue to work with community transport providers.

“But at this current point in time, there are only two things that will ultimately turn the situation around – an increase in sufficient funding for local government, or a greater number of people opting to use commercial public transport which will ensure that services can remain profitable to run.”