Town councillors have hit out at Scottish Borders Council’s plans to slash £400,000 from its subsidised bus services budget.
The local authority admitted this week that it was looking to make the cuts over the next two years, and although it has pledged to carry out a public consultation, serious doubts have been been expressed over the effectiveness of any dialogue with passengers.
The prospect of “many” bus routes being ditched has been branded “unacceptable” and fears have been expressed over the resultant mobility issues facing the eldery and disabled.
Watson McAteer said a £400,000 reduction represented almost a quarter of the total bus subsidies budget and would almost inevitably have a serious impact on residents of Hawick and the surrounding area.
He continued: “With this figure being agreed before the actual bus service needs are fully evaluated, then I’m afraid effective consultation will be challenging to say the least.
“Once again it looks like rural communities will bare the brunt of financial constraints that are set to take us back 100 years.”
Stuart Marshall stated: “These cuts will put pressure on many routes in Hawick and around the region, a situation that many will find unacceptable. Until the railway finally makes its way to Hawick and onto Carlisle, residents and visitors to this area should demand bus services are enhanced, not diminished.”
Ron Smith said he would need need to wait until he sawthe range of proposals, but having tried so hard in recent years to promote services in the Wellogate/Terraces area and in Weensland, he would not be happy with reductions. “My thoughts are always with the older, the disabled, and those who have no car. They have to be helped to get around,” he added.
George Turnbull told us it would be wrong to speculate where the cuts would be made but he would wait with baited breath to see the report as and when it came to council. He went on: “I’m led to believe that October could be the crunch time to bring the first phase [of cuts] into play.”
Sounding a more optimistic note, Councillor Alastair Cranston said: “The effect on those, who I am aware of, who rely on bus services is as yet an unclear factor. However, it may open a further opportunity for growth of private minibus services.”
A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “In its current financial plan the council has committed to a £200,000 saving on subsidised bus services for 2016/7 and 2017/8 (a total of £400,000 over two years).
“A process plan for the review of subsidised bus services is being discussed by senior officers and will then go to elected members prior to a public consultation taking place.
“All subsidised bus services – those fully and part-funded by the council – will be considered as part of the review.”
Councillor Davie Paterson did not respond to our request for a comment.