Call for Norfolk council tax hike to be used to stave off bus subsidy cuts

File photo of buses in North Walsham. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

File photo of buses in North Walsham. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Pressure is mounting for controversial cuts to bus subsidies in Norfolk to be ditched, with calls for a proposed council tax increase to be used to stave off the saving.

Norfolk County Council has been 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.

The consultation has finished and on Friday, the councillors on the environment, development and transport committee will consider whether to recommend that full council agrees to review subsidised bus routes, which would trigger a 12-week consultation.

But Conservative council leader Cliff Jordan recently said the council would consider a 5.99pc council tax increase, after the government eased restrictions on such hikes.

While 3pc of that would be specifically for adult social care, putting up the county's share of the council tax by 1.09pc than the 4.9pc which budget planning was initially based on would generate just under £4m in 2018/19.

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And Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour opposition at County Hall, said that extra cash should be used to abandon the bus subsidy cut, along with another proposal to reduce gritting.

He said: 'With the increase proposed in council tax, Norfolk should ditch the gritting and bus subsidy cuts now. I'm calling on Norfolk Tories to back that.'

A petition organised by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, calling on the council not to cut the bus subsidies, has been signed by almost 5,000 people.Liberal Democrat Mr Lamb said: 'If subsidies are removed or reduced then these services, a lifeline for those who do not own cars or cannot drive, are at risk of ending completely.

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'Any further cuts to the service could lead to social isolation and a lowered quality of life for the many people who depend on public transport in Norfolk.'

More than 700 people have signed a similar petition by Age Space, which offers online support and advice about care for older people.Mr Jordan said, with recommendations by committees yet to be made and the final decision in the hands of full council, it was premature for him to say what might happen.

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