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People urged to sign petition against cuts which could threaten Norfolk buses

PUBLISHED: 15:57 06 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:57 06 December 2017

Fears have been raised that older people could become isolated if bus subsidies in Norfolk are cut. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Fears have been raised that older people could become isolated if bus subsidies in Norfolk are cut. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2015

A petition has been launched to convince county councillors not to cut subsidies from Norfolk buses, amid fears elderly people could become isolated.

Norfolk County Council is consulting over a potential £500,000 cut to the £2.7m subsidy it gives bus operators and community transport providers, as it wrestles with ways to plug a £125m spending gap.

But there are fears withdrawal of subsidies could see bus services cancelled.

Age Space, which offers online support and advice about care for older people, has launched a petition.

Helen Burgess, regional manager, said: “We wanted to start this petition to raise awareness to the huge implications cutting transport links will have on the lives of many older people across Norfolk.

“At the Care Convention last month, we heard a lot from the council about their ‘Promoting Independence’ strategy where they will be working with community and local organisations to help improve care for the elderly in Norfolk.

“Perhaps the council need to be talking more within and across departments, as the wider cost implications of older people becoming more isolated and the effects this will have on health and social care budgets will be huge.”

Eamon McGrath, community development manager for Age UK Norfolk, said cutting subsidies seemed to be “completely at odds” with the county council’s own In Good Company campaign which aims to combat loneliness.

Tom McCabe, executive director for community and environmental services at Norfolk County Council, stressed no decisions had been made and invited people to take part in the consultation.

He said: “If a review goes ahead, it will consist of a number of elements including the usage and demand of services as well as exploring if we can provide a transport service in a different way. Any decisions will factor in patronage, frequency, availability of other services and local needs.

“In the event that councillors ask for a full review of services, we are committed to carrying out meaningful consultation on any proposed changes. This won’t occur until late February, after the budget setting meeting.”

The council’s consultation, at https://norfolk.citizenspace.com/consultation/bussubsidy/ runs until January, while the petition is at https://tinyurl.com/y7wo7pzm

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