A campaign to oppose the planned swingeing bus service cuts for some of the most vulnerable groups in Kent will be mounted by Unite, the country’s largest union.
The gauntlet has been thrown down to the Tory-controlled county council which is preparing to slash £4 million from the ‘socially necessary bus services’ (SNBS) budget over the next two years, 2018-2020.
The cuts will mean the axing of 74 SNBS contracts affecting services used by pensioners, the disabled and their carers, and low paid workers without cars, as well as school children. A total of 1.6 million journeys a year are made on the threatened routes.
The services that will be hit are across the whole county, but the majority are in the Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks and Tonbridge & Malling districts.
Unite said that the SNBS budget will be cut by 70 per cent which is disproportionately high when set against the council’s total annual budget of about £930 million.
Unite regional officer Dave Weeks said: “The proposed bus cuts are disproportionately targeting some of the most vulnerable in Kent – the disabled and the elderly. School children will also have to find alternative ways to get to their schools.
“Seventy per cent of the SNBS budget is due to be axed by 2020, but when set against the council’s £940 million annual budget, it is a drop in the ocean.
“We will be launching a campaign to mobilise public opinion to get the council to reverse this harsh plan which threatens to isolate rural communities and deepen divisions in society.
“We are also concerned for our members’ jobs who work for the bus companies operating throughout Kent. There is the threat that some of the smaller bus companies, which rely on SNBS money, will close down and it is not expected that community transport services will be able to plug that gap.”
There will be a consultation period running from 17 January to 27 March 2018 and, if the plan goes ahead, the bus services will cease from September next year.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.