3:51pm Friday 7th February 2014
By Tom Edwards
A GROUP of student activists in Worcestershire say they have been left reeling by the planned bus cuts - despite being thrown an olive branch.
Worcestershire Youth Cabinet says it wants the county council to "look at alternatives" rather than slash public transport subsidies.
Members of the group says many students across the county will be severely restricted on school or college choices if the cuts are accepted.
The county council spends £3 million a year subsidising 97 bus services, but wants to slash it in September.
After originally saying the entire fund would go, the Conservative leadership now says a provisional £1.1 million has been found to plug some of the gap, as your Worcester News revealed yesterday.
Youth cabinet member Jai Bolton, 17, a student at Hanley Castle High School, said: "Buses are absolutely vital for youth participation - if the buses went how would they get to school, how would they see friends?"
Fellow youth cabinet member Craig Bateman, 17, a pupil at King Charles School in Kidderminster, said: "It will have a huge impact on the county, particularly on young people.
"While we understand the need to make cuts is inevitable, we can't help but think there are alternatives."
Worcester MP Robin Walker, meanwhile, has welcomed the decision to stump up extra money.
"This is a very sensible thing to do," he said.
"I think it's absolutely right that we make sure bus companies aren't making profits from taxpayers money, it's welcome to see the council is making sure a subsidy is still there."
The council decided to find the cash from its budget after an unprecedented 8,500 responses were made during a two month consultation.
The Conservative leadership has warned the public not to expect all the routes under threat to be saved.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, deputy leader and cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure said: "It's always important to listen to people and that's what we've done.
"But we do still need to make large scale changes to the budget, people have got to realise that.
"We are listening, we do understand the concerns, we've had an unprecedented number of responses so we're putting £1.1 million back in to save some of those services.
"This is a strong commitment.
"It doesn't mean every bus can continue, clearly not, but it does mean those essential services can run on top of the commercial network."
The subsidised routes make up 20 per cent of the total network, and carry three million passengers a year.
Talks with bus operators are continuing, with a new report due out in May or June on what routes are safe.
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