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Fears cuts to Norfolk bus subsidies could leave people lonely and 'marooned'

PUBLISHED: 08:41 27 November 2017 | UPDATED: 14:35 27 November 2017

Bus in North Walsham. The boss of Sanders Coaches fears subsidy cuts could threaten the network. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Bus in North Walsham. The boss of Sanders Coaches fears subsidy cuts could threaten the network. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

Years of work to prevent people in Norfolk being isolated could be undone if half a million pounds is cut from subsidies for bus routes, one of the region's major operators has warned.

Charles Sanders. 

Picture: MARK BULLIMORECharles Sanders. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Charles Sanders, who runs Holt-based Sanders Coaches, warned people could lose jobs if buses are no longer able to run, while social isolation could rise, with people “marooned” in villages.

Norfolk County Council is consulting over reducing the subsidy for bus operators and community transport providers by £500,000 as part of plans to plug a £125m spending gap.

The council subsidises bus companies by £2.7m a year, for about 100 services and gives £400,000 to community transport operators.

Services across Norfolk, including Great Yarmouth, Norwich, King’s Lynn, Thetford, Beccles, Aylsham, Swaffham, Acle, Wymondham, Dereham, Watton, Diss, Fakenham, Holt, Cromer, North Walsham and Sheringham, could be affected.

Cliff Jordan, Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Cliff Jordan, Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

And, with the subsidies paid because operators deemed those services were not viable without support, it could see services end.

Mr Sanders has written a letter to councillors imploring them to think again about making such cuts, saying 20 years of hard work could be undone - and warning if feeder routes disappear, core routes could follow.

In it, he wrote: “Loneliness is already one of the key drivers of depression, isolating people in their homes would only add a further burden on the overstretched social and health services in the county.”

He said the council’s transport team had worked hard to help make buses a success and said Norfolk had so far been a “beacon for local bus provision”.

And he said: “I implore you to take a very measured and reasoned approach to any decisions you make as far as reducing people’s lifelines, job prospects, personal welfare and happiness.

“Dr Beeching made sure that rural Norfolk was stripped almost entirely of its railways. We surely cannot make the same mistakes with buses as well.”

Cliff Jordan, Conservative leader at County Hall, said: “We’ve not made any decisions yet - that’s what the consultation is for..

“We know people don’t want reductions, but, nationally, we’re getting less funding and we have got to cut our cake.”

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