Controversial bus cuts in Sheffield dominated the city council’s first full meeting after the summer break.
The changes to dozens of services across the city – said to represent a 10 per cent cut – were agreed by transport chiefs on Tuesday despite widespread opposition and will come into force from the end of October.
At yesterday’s full council meeting in Sheffield Town Hall, two petitions against the cuts were handed in, while questions on the topic were asked from the public gallery and a motion on the matter was debated.
Sharron Milsom, who presented the first petition of more than 800 names, said the way that consultation had been run had made it ‘difficult’ for people to learn about what was proposed.
Cuts had been described as ‘improvements’ by Sheffield Bus Partnership, of which the council is a partner. She said: “At best, that could be described as misleading.
“The objective was to hide what was being planned.”
She said that, despite the decision being made, campaigners would still battle on.
“We’re going to continue to fight these cuts, which are clearly to cut the costs of these private bus operators and boost their profits”, she said.
“Sheffield Council should not be doing this for them.”
Andy Nash, who lives on the route of the 83 service, handed in a petition of more than 2,870 names.
During the official consultation run by the bus partnership, 2,500 people took part.
Mr Nash said that the cuts would mean more people will visit the city centre rather than neighbourhood shopping areas, which had lost their bus links.
“This is a surefire way to lead to a dwindling spiral of bus usage,” he said.
The original bus changes were revised after a public outcry. Transport chiefs say the changes will improve the network and lower fares are being introduced.
In the council meeting, Coun Terry Fox responded to the petitions and said that consultation could ‘always be better.’
The cabinet member for transport said: “The decision taken was about trying to get a stable network.”
He said the partnership had increased bus usage by two million passengers and new fares would allow people who bought monthly tickets to access all buses for £2 a day – a reduction of 27 per cent.
“I think some people in this city will welcome that,” he added.