Community ‘solutions’ to Leicestershire cuts?

A £400,000 cut in Leicestershire County Council’s £2.3million budget has led it to revise its criteria for supporting bus services.

It says it ‘is not a major passenger transport provider’ and expects to replace some routes with what it says will be ‘local community solutions’.

Currently there are 32 contracts for local routes, 20 with Centrebus. Arriva Midlands’ Hinckleybus operation holds five, while the others are with independents Roberts Travel Group (four) Paul S. Winson (two) and Murphy’s Taxis (one).

The new criteria will rate the need for a service on a 35-point scale, with only those scoring 25 or more being regarded as a strong case for support. ‘Even where a bus service scores well there could be occasions where the authority is not able to provide financial support due to budgetary pressures,’ it warns, adding that it has no budget to cover withdrawals of commercial services.

It also anticipates that community transport operators will have to ‘become less reliant on council grants’. A three-week trial of demand responsive services on five routes attracted just 33 passengers on 25 journeys, with two routes attracting no passengers at all. Besides other criteria, future contracts will have to have a net cost of less than £1.20 per passenger km. The council plans to consult further before cuts are made during 2019.

Paul S. Winson 124 (XX13 PSW), an Alexander Dennis Enviro200, operating Leicestershire tendered service 129 in Loughborough.