Clashes in council meeting over park and ride cuts

Evesham Journal: County Hall: debate over bus cuts yesterday County Hall: debate over bus cuts yesterday

A LAST-DITCH bid to prevent public transport being slashed in Worcestershire failed yesterday after bad-tempered clashes between councillors.

An urgent meeting was held at County Hall to examine the implications of scrapping Worcester's two park and rides and scaling down bus routes, during which:

- County council officers were accused by one Labour councillor of running an "unprofessional" consultation, which led to the Tory leadership blasting the criticism as "slanderous" and "inaccurate"

- Another councillor claimed Worcestershire is "going backwards" for transport and rapidly falling behind areas like Chester and Shrewsbury

- A petition was brought to the meeting with around 800 signatures on it from park and ride users in Perdiswell

- An attempt to force Councillor John Smith, the cabinet member for transport, to publish a report on the "ways he will communicate" the bus cuts to colleges, employers and tourists was rejected

- A separate bid by Labour councillors to stage an "urgent" in-house review of the consequences of slashing public transport was also thrown out

A panel of councillors sitting on the scrutiny board got together following last week's decision to cut £1.6m from public transport in Worcestershire, meaning park and rides at Perdiswell and Sixways are due to close in September.

Councillor Peter McDonald, Labour group leader, said: "Good transport keeps people moving, gets them to jobs and services and supports businesses.

"To me, to respond to a consultation by saying so many routes will have 'similar' services in place is meaningless.

"This council could be sending hundreds if not thousands of people to the dole queue."

He called the consultation "flawed, unprofessional and unintelligible", claiming businesses and council staff were among those not consulted properly.

But it was firmly rejected by the council, which accused him of "insulting" the officers.

Councillor John Smith, cabinet member for transport and highways, said: "I am extremely concerned about the comments made on the consultation.

"I did an hour long radio interview with an Upton resident and Councillor Alan Amos, went back on there two or three times, did multiple press interviews, notices went on almost every bus route in Worcestershire.

"Nearly 9,000 responses came in, twice as many as any other consultation this council has ever done, so I don't see how you can say it's been flawed."

He said the reason why the final report on the bus cuts, which said 52 of the 97 under-threat routes will continue as 'similar' services from September, is because talks with operators are ongoing.

Cllr Smith also asked the Labour leader to withdraw his comments, calling them slanderous, but he did not.

As your Worcester News revealed last week, as well as the park and ride decision, 13 bus routes are being scrapped entirely, 17 will stay the same and the rest face changes including higher fares, timetable alterations or less frequent pick-ups.

During yesterday's debate Cllr Smith said Worcester could not hope to emulate the likes of Oxford, where park and rides are popular.

"You cannot park in Oxford and if you do try it, it's about £15 an hour - our situation is quite different; what we'd like to do and what we can do are two quite different things," he said.

Peter Blake, head of integrated transport, said: "200 cars a day use the Perdiswell park and ride but the Barbourne corridor takes 23,000 vehicles daily.

"Cutting public transport will make a difference but I'd question whether it's significant."

The council was considering scrapping its entire £3 million yearly public transport subsidy, but scaled it down to £1.6 million after the public outcry.

Around 80 per cent of Worcestershire's buses are ran commercially and require no subsidy.

The scrutiny board did agree on one thing yesterday - that Cllr Smith should publish a report on any possible ways park and ride can be "replaced or retained".

They have requested he publishes it "urgently", but it will not stop September's cuts coming in.

ANGRY COUNCILLORS CLASH OVER PARK AND RIDE CUTS

DURING yesterday's debate it emerged that around 800 people have signed a petition Perdiswell's park and ride since last week.

Councillor Paul Denham, from the Labour group, turned up angrily clutching sheets of paper containing reams of names.

During furious clashes with opposition councillors, he said all the spending which has gone into park and ride over the last decade is now "a complete and utter waste of public money".

"I estimate there's about 800 names on this petition and more are coming in," he said.

"A look at the postcodes is very interesting, it shows very few people using it are visitors to the city - we had a couple from Gillingham in Kent and that's about it.

"To me that suggests the county council is just not advertising it enough - the subsidy is already pretty low, 56p per passenger and if more people used it that figure would come down.

"Closing it will have a massive impact on congestion, it will put off tourists and we're already the third most congested city in the UK."

He said people at County Hall "shout from the rooftops about 'world class' Worcestershire", adding "a world class place doesn't force people to drive into its county town".

He also lambasted the decision to scrap funding for the Sixways park and ride, which has left the hospital having to explore options of funding its own service for staff.

He said: "Are we seriously so lacking in joined up thinking that we're expecting the health service to take money away from front line health care so it can get its staff to work?

"If that's the case, it's an absolute disgrace.

His fury provoked criticism from Tory and Liberal Democrat councillors, who said he was "having a rant" despite the decision already being made.

They said the purpose of the meeting was to examine the quality of the consultation rather than go over old ground.

Councillor Tom Wells, a Lib Dem said: "I'm very disturbed by what's taken place - I've heard all sorts of things which appear to be beyond the parameters of this call-in."

Councillor Ken Pollock said the panel had been asked to attend "on false pretences", calling his criticism "irrelevant and invalid".

Councillor John Smith, cabinet member for transport and highways, said: "Anything that one 'takes away' is not ideal, but be we have reduced resources and (in that context) this is an acceptable solution."

The Perdiswell park and ride was used more than 450,000 times a year in 2008, but has declined to last year's low of 274,935, costing £186,000 to run.

Comments (12)

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4:28pm Wed 18 Jun 14

skychip says...

The cuts to the bus services might not be so bad if the City wasnt already one of the worst in the country for congestion. I sometimes wonder which roads our Councillors travel on - surely they notice the situation.
The cuts to the bus services might not be so bad if the City wasnt already one of the worst in the country for congestion. I sometimes wonder which roads our Councillors travel on - surely they notice the situation. skychip
  • Score: 8

6:00pm Wed 18 Jun 14

DarrenM says...

Excellent news, glad to see the 'green mafia' with their pointless wasting of taxpayers are finally starting to beaten back.

And the maximum price to park in Oxford City Centre (ox1 postcode) for 2 hours is £5.50, not £15 for 1 hour.

No wonder this County is in such a mess if they can't even use google to look up a simple fact, or was the intention was to deliberately mislead?
Excellent news, glad to see the 'green mafia' with their pointless wasting of taxpayers are finally starting to beaten back. And the maximum price to park in Oxford City Centre (ox1 postcode) for 2 hours is £5.50, not £15 for 1 hour. No wonder this County is in such a mess if they can't even use google to look up a simple fact, or was the intention was to deliberately mislead? DarrenM
  • Score: -1

6:04pm Wed 18 Jun 14

3thinker says...

Park and Ride was never going to work when the City and County Councils didn't work together to make it a better option in terms of cost, time and convenience.

The single biggest issue raised by local citizens is existing levels of congestion. Independent research suggests we have the third worst congestion in the UK. And what do the City and County do?

Abolish park and ride, reduce bus services and make it cheaper to park in the City Centre. Add to this all the additional growth planned for Worcester and it is inevitable that congestion and parking issues will increase.

As you sit there in traffic perhaps you'd like to reflect on how and why our local politicians have ducked the question and failed to make the admittedly unpopular short term decisions to do what is needed and explore options that discourage car use in the City Centre and encourage more to use other means of transport. Some may be politically unpopular, but if we are really to avoid 9-5 grid lock and all the problems that bring with it some difficult choices are needed. Unfortunately we don't appear to have politicians locally who have the wit or vision to do what is needed.
Park and Ride was never going to work when the City and County Councils didn't work together to make it a better option in terms of cost, time and convenience. The single biggest issue raised by local citizens is existing levels of congestion. Independent research suggests we have the third worst congestion in the UK. And what do the City and County do? Abolish park and ride, reduce bus services and make it cheaper to park in the City Centre. Add to this all the additional growth planned for Worcester and it is inevitable that congestion and parking issues will increase. As you sit there in traffic perhaps you'd like to reflect on how and why our local politicians have ducked the question and failed to make the admittedly unpopular short term decisions to do what is needed and explore options that discourage car use in the City Centre and encourage more to use other means of transport. Some may be politically unpopular, but if we are really to avoid 9-5 grid lock and all the problems that bring with it some difficult choices are needed. Unfortunately we don't appear to have politicians locally who have the wit or vision to do what is needed. 3thinker
  • Score: 9

6:25pm Wed 18 Jun 14

3thinker says...

DarrenM wrote:
Excellent news, glad to see the 'green mafia' with their pointless wasting of taxpayers are finally starting to beaten back.

And the maximum price to park in Oxford City Centre (ox1 postcode) for 2 hours is £5.50, not £15 for 1 hour.

No wonder this County is in such a mess if they can't even use google to look up a simple fact, or was the intention was to deliberately mislead?
Why do you always assume anything that isn't pro-car is a plot, as you see it by the 'green mafia' and a waste of taxpayers money?

Here are a few key facts:

Worcester already has the third worst congestion in the UK.

The taxpayers can't afford to pay for a massive new roads programme, even if it was feasible.

By reducing options for travel without using a car congestion will increase and especially given the massive expansion plans for the City.

Unlike you and I there is a growing number of local taxpayers that don't or can't have access to a car and this will increase as a result of our ageing population. How are they going to get about?

The key argument for reducing car use in the City isn't about being 'green' (although there are obvious benefits), but more about social and economic priorities.

The big problem is our City father's haven't the bottle or vision to see beyond their own 'bonnets' and make the difficult choices that will ease congestion and make Worcester a better place to live, work and indeed commute into.
[quote][p][bold]DarrenM[/bold] wrote: Excellent news, glad to see the 'green mafia' with their pointless wasting of taxpayers are finally starting to beaten back. And the maximum price to park in Oxford City Centre (ox1 postcode) for 2 hours is £5.50, not £15 for 1 hour. No wonder this County is in such a mess if they can't even use google to look up a simple fact, or was the intention was to deliberately mislead?[/p][/quote]Why do you always assume anything that isn't pro-car is a plot, as you see it by the 'green mafia' and a waste of taxpayers money? Here are a few key facts: Worcester already has the third worst congestion in the UK. The taxpayers can't afford to pay for a massive new roads programme, even if it was feasible. By reducing options for travel without using a car congestion will increase and especially given the massive expansion plans for the City. Unlike you and I there is a growing number of local taxpayers that don't or can't have access to a car and this will increase as a result of our ageing population. How are they going to get about? The key argument for reducing car use in the City isn't about being 'green' (although there are obvious benefits), but more about social and economic priorities. The big problem is our City father's haven't the bottle or vision to see beyond their own 'bonnets' and make the difficult choices that will ease congestion and make Worcester a better place to live, work and indeed commute into. 3thinker
  • Score: 15

6:30pm Wed 18 Jun 14

DarrenM says...

I hardly think its independent , it was a carried out by a car insurance company....
I hardly think its independent , it was a carried out by a car insurance company.... DarrenM
  • Score: -2

6:49pm Wed 18 Jun 14

3thinker says...

DarrenM wrote:
I hardly think its independent , it was a carried out by a car insurance company....
Fact is- the City is congested (or are you saying it isn't?).

I appreciate its not a problem for you as from previous posts you prefer spending your time and money driving to and shopping at Merry Hell supporting all those chains that don't put much back into the local economy and do their best to avoid paying UK tax.

Hope you'll still be able to get there when you're too old to drive.
[quote][p][bold]DarrenM[/bold] wrote: I hardly think its independent , it was a carried out by a car insurance company....[/p][/quote]Fact is- the City is congested (or are you saying it isn't?). I appreciate its not a problem for you as from previous posts you prefer spending your time and money driving to and shopping at Merry Hell supporting all those chains that don't put much back into the local economy and do their best to avoid paying UK tax. Hope you'll still be able to get there when you're too old to drive. 3thinker
  • Score: 9

12:16pm Thu 19 Jun 14

newike says...

A possible way forward. Rather than let the Park and Ride at Perdiswell rot, give free parking. Have the 144 stop there as a normal bus stop with a special £1 return. Make other buses using Bilford Road and Ombersley Road going in and out of town to divert a few hundred yards to pick up , also with a special £1 return fare. Okay inconvenient but not a long way. Yes it would cost, but not what its costing at the moment.
A possible way forward. Rather than let the Park and Ride at Perdiswell rot, give free parking. Have the 144 stop there as a normal bus stop with a special £1 return. Make other buses using Bilford Road and Ombersley Road going in and out of town to divert a few hundred yards to pick up , also with a special £1 return fare. Okay inconvenient but not a long way. Yes it would cost, but not what its costing at the moment. newike
  • Score: 9

12:39pm Thu 19 Jun 14

3thinker says...

newike wrote:
A possible way forward. Rather than let the Park and Ride at Perdiswell rot, give free parking. Have the 144 stop there as a normal bus stop with a special £1 return. Make other buses using Bilford Road and Ombersley Road going in and out of town to divert a few hundred yards to pick up , also with a special £1 return fare. Okay inconvenient but not a long way. Yes it would cost, but not what its costing at the moment.
Great idea newike.

It could also be used by those who could be persuaded to car share or cycle the last couple of miles either down the canal or along Barbourne Rd. The problem with our City fathers is they lack the vision to think beyond what they want to do themselves - i.e. drive everywhere.

Even in Worcester there are lots who don't have access to a car or would use other means of transport for some of their journeys if it was made more convenient and/or cheaper than driving. It would also benefit those who do need to drive into the City Centre by reducing congestion and freeing up more car parking spaces.

I notice the LEP seems to be very pro road building as a solution. With an ageing workforce and more young people not being able to afford a car perhaps they need to ask themselves how businesses locally are going to attract the skills they need for the future as older workers retire and younger ones can't get to work.
[quote][p][bold]newike[/bold] wrote: A possible way forward. Rather than let the Park and Ride at Perdiswell rot, give free parking. Have the 144 stop there as a normal bus stop with a special £1 return. Make other buses using Bilford Road and Ombersley Road going in and out of town to divert a few hundred yards to pick up , also with a special £1 return fare. Okay inconvenient but not a long way. Yes it would cost, but not what its costing at the moment.[/p][/quote]Great idea newike. It could also be used by those who could be persuaded to car share or cycle the last couple of miles either down the canal or along Barbourne Rd. The problem with our City fathers is they lack the vision to think beyond what they want to do themselves - i.e. drive everywhere. Even in Worcester there are lots who don't have access to a car or would use other means of transport for some of their journeys if it was made more convenient and/or cheaper than driving. It would also benefit those who do need to drive into the City Centre by reducing congestion and freeing up more car parking spaces. I notice the LEP seems to be very pro road building as a solution. With an ageing workforce and more young people not being able to afford a car perhaps they need to ask themselves how businesses locally are going to attract the skills they need for the future as older workers retire and younger ones can't get to work. 3thinker
  • Score: 7

2:53pm Thu 19 Jun 14

thesquirrel says...

With Worcester having some of the worst traffic in the country clearly the Park & Ride isn't working. Time to scrap it.
With Worcester having some of the worst traffic in the country clearly the Park & Ride isn't working. Time to scrap it. thesquirrel
  • Score: 0

3:03pm Thu 19 Jun 14

3thinker says...

thesquirrel wrote:
With Worcester having some of the worst traffic in the country clearly the Park & Ride isn't working. Time to scrap it.
1. More could have been done to make it work.
2. Scrapping it will add to the existing congestion
3. So will cutting bus services
4. And agreeing to the massive development that is now planned

So what are the City and County Council going to reduce congestion?

Nothing.
[quote][p][bold]thesquirrel[/bold] wrote: With Worcester having some of the worst traffic in the country clearly the Park & Ride isn't working. Time to scrap it.[/p][/quote]1. More could have been done to make it work. 2. Scrapping it will add to the existing congestion 3. So will cutting bus services 4. And agreeing to the massive development that is now planned So what are the City and County Council going to reduce congestion? Nothing. 3thinker
  • Score: 3

11:59pm Fri 20 Jun 14

greenmonkey says...

thesquirrel wrote:
With Worcester having some of the worst traffic in the country clearly the Park & Ride isn't working. Time to scrap it.
So err its not working, lets make things even worse by scrapping the park and ride?? I think this comment is more to the mark: It could also be used by those who could be persuaded to car share or cycle the last couple of miles either down the canal or along Barbourne Rd. The problem with our City fathers is they lack the vision to think beyond what they want to do themselves - i.e. drive everywhere.
[quote][p][bold]thesquirrel[/bold] wrote: With Worcester having some of the worst traffic in the country clearly the Park & Ride isn't working. Time to scrap it.[/p][/quote]So err its not working, lets make things even worse by scrapping the park and ride?? I think this comment is more to the mark: It could also be used by those who could be persuaded to car share or cycle the last couple of miles either down the canal or along Barbourne Rd. The problem with our City fathers is they lack the vision to think beyond what they want to do themselves - i.e. drive everywhere. greenmonkey
  • Score: 2

5:16pm Mon 23 Jun 14

roary01 says...

The park and ride is pointless when it's cheaper to park in town would only ever work if park and ride was cheaper than normal parking
The park and ride is pointless when it's cheaper to park in town would only ever work if park and ride was cheaper than normal parking roary01
  • Score: 3

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