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Norfolk bus subsidy cut raised in select committee

PUBLISHED: 06:30 14 January 2014

Chloe Smith MP. Photo: Bill Smith

Chloe Smith MP. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2013

Setting generations against each other over bus funding will not produce good results for either of them, a transport lobby boss has said.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, made the comments during an evidence session into passenger transport in isolated communities following a question by committee member and Norwich North MP Chloe Smith.

During the first oral evidence session of the select committee Ms Smith, who has joined the other Norfolk MPs to campaign against proposed Norfolk County Council bus subsidy cuts, said: “There is a policy kicking around in Norfolk at the moment which seeks to remove some of the subsidy from young people’s services going to 16 to 19 education. Obviously elsewhere in the public service world young people are being asked to stay on in education. Here we have a classic problem of balancing one generation’s needs against others in an array of decisions that are all related to really tough public finance.”

Council cabinet members say the subsidy has been “forced on the council” by cuts to government funding, but they would like to pull back from it if finances allow.

Mr Joseph said: “We carried out work for the Inter-Generational Foundation. Our conclusion was setting generations against each other would not necessarily result in good results for either of them.”

He said where local authorities had moved away from dedicated services, both generations had benefited. He gave an example in Hertfordshire, where dedicated school transport had been made into ordinary services which could be commissioned by schools so older people could use them too. “You can bring together revenue schemes across generations,” he said. He also added that there was not enough marketing done for subsidised services.

He said: “Where local authorities have got together and marketed networks of services, they have been able to get people back on to buses that have not been there for a long time.” Ms Smith has called for other submissions about issues relating to rural transport from Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to the House of Commons committee, which she became a member of last year after standing down as a minister.

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