Bus cuts leave older people stranded
Published on 12 December 2012 11:30 AM
Campaigners have hit out at further council cuts to supported bus services across England, which they say have left many older people 'stranded'.
Age UK says the cuts have left many of the 10 million older and disabled people with concessionary bus passes with no affordable alternative.
The Campaign for Better Transport found 41% of councils have reduced funding for supported bus services this year with one in 10 making cuts of over £1 million.
The funding cutbacks follow previous reductions in the 2011/12 financial year when a fifth of local authorities axed or cut back on their supported bus services.
Using Freedom of Information requests the transport campaign group found councils had cut funding by £18.3 million, representing 16% of the total budget for supported buses in England.
Age UK's charity director general, Michelle Mitchell, said buses provided the only affordable way to get out and about for many older people, who relied on them to visit family and friends or get to medical appointments. People with concessionary bus passes made an average of 109 bus journeys a year.
She said buses helped people stay active in the local communities, playing 'an essential part' in countering loneliness and isolation - problems which can have a serious impact on mental and physical health.
Older people left stranded
Commenting on the Campaign for Better Transport's report Ms Mitchell said although almost 10 million people had concessionary bus passes, there was 'little point' having them if there were no buses to use, adding that the further funding cuts were 'extremely worrying'.
She added: 'In some cases, routes have been cancelled altogether, leaving people stranded without affordable alternatives.
'The Government and local authorities need to appreciate that buses are crucial in allowing older people to remain independent and healthy. By finding a way to pool budgets nationally and locally the impact of these financial cuts on bus services could be eased and more bus routes saved for the future.'
The report revealed regional differences, with the South West losing 100 supported services this year, £4 million worth of cuts being made in the east of England and 62% of councils in the East Midlands cutting funding.
Copyright Press Association 2012