Successful community bus service could get more public funding

A community bus service will be “encouraged” to make a bid for council funding to keep it operating next year, but the aim is that it should become less reliant on the public purse in future.

Thursday, 14th February 2019, 13:29 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st May 2019, 10:17 am
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The Penistone area service was introduced as a reaction to serious cuts in commercial bus services serving the town and surrounding villages, which were introduced around two years ago.

Penistone Area Council agreed to fund South Pennines Community Transport to provide a circular route serving Penistone and surrounding communities for a year, which was then extended to allow it to operate until the end of March.

Now the area council enough spare cash to provide further funding, using a budget provided by Barnsley Council, but with the intention that the service could move towards self-sufficiency over time, with reducing grants from their funds.

It is also hoped the service’s operators can join the Barnsley Bus Partnership, and organisation involving bus companies, the council and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, which is responsible for ensuring the county has adequate public transport services.

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The area council is made up of councillors representing the two wards covering the Penistone district and Coun Dave Griffin said South Pennines were interested in moving the service forwards: “They have some really good ideas about how we can grow the bus service, buck the trend and increase them.”

Area Council chairman Coun Robert Barnard said: “Is it possible to work towards a lower and lower subsidy? More passengers is what it needs.”

The meeting was told the service was also taking on a social function, allowing people who had not met for years previously to renew contact and an informal lending library had been established among passengers, who were swapping books.

That is regarded as contributing towards the area council’s work towards tackling loneliness and isolation, which has been amongst their priorities for several years.

Coun Hannah Kitching suggested the area council should be looking to get the same service for less of their own input, rather than setting down limits which could cause the service to collapse.