I presented a petition to Sheffield City Council asking them to reverse the detrimental changes made to bus services in the city on November 1. This was the second time I had done this – back in September, when it was clear the consultation was a shambles, I asked them to reconsider, and warned of what would happen if they did not.
I was not expecting to be back so soon, but the chaos since November 1 has caused difficulty and even misery for thousands who rely upon Sheffield’s bus services, not only residents but also businesses and schools – people late for work, children getting detention for being late, the elderly unable to visit family, an autistic person too afraid to leave the house after getting caught up in the chaos of renumbered buses.
This is a serious, ongoing issue that cannot be put on the back burner.
A resident of Greenhill, Joanne Lumley, had done spectacularly well, and her petition of 12,400, (at time of writing), triggered a full council debate when it passed 5000.
Coun Terry Fox, Labour cabinet member responsible for transport, should have listened when I and thousands others warned him in September, yet the consultation was neither reopened nor extended.
He could not provide an answer as to why he did not try and stop the changes – based on a flawed consultation – from going ahead.
Where was the oversight of the communication and implementation of these changes?
The council represents the public as part of the Sheffield Bus Partnership and can exert influence over the bus operators. We should not have to ask them to do this.
Joanne made an accomplished speech, and was complemented by councillors of all sides for her description of the difficulties this had caused her petitioners, the examples she cited, and the significant effect the changes and chaos had had on her own family.
Coun Fox met yesterday with the bus companies in the morning before full council, knowing he would be under pressure, with TV, radio and press all in attendance.
He boasted of meeting with bus companies only twice since the crisis began, and suggested opposition parties who have no leverage over the bus operators should have done more. Some extra buses will be provided, and he will take bus companies to task at a public meeting in February – if they have not improved various performance metrics.
Why did he not meet them more often, and demand daily progress updates during this crisis? Why wait till February? Why talk only of addressing punctuality and capacity and not the services changed or removed?
With all Sheffield councillors up for election in May we have the opportunity to show Labour that they must listen, consult effectively, and proactively fight the public’s corner.
I hope that all Sheffield residents will use their vote, and elect councillors who will do so.
Liberal Democrat candidate, Beauchief & Greenhill