As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...
- Name: Alistair Livingston
Friday, March 18, 2016
Friday, March 11, 2016
Buses Face Axe
It started 9.30 Thursday morning when Sandy who is my son Callum’s carerworker was about to take Callum off in the taxi to day centre. “Look up Swestrans” Sandy said. “Laura has found out they are meeting tomorrow and plan to cut Sunday and evening bus services.” Sandy and Laura are local Scottish green party members.
By the time what he said had sunk in, Sandy and Callum and Brian the taxi driver were gone.
So I went online and looked and found that Swestrans, who manage public transport in Dumfries and Galloway were having a meeting in the Murray Arms Hotel in Gatehouse of Fleet on Friday 11 March at 10 30 am. The agenda for the meeting included reports and was 118 pages long. Item 10 on the agenda, on pages 99 to 102
10. LOCAL BUS SERVICE FUNDING 2016/17 – Recommendations – (1) note the reduction in revenue funding from 1 April 2016; (2) agree to reduce the annual publicity budget by £10,000; (3) note the options presented for achieving savings from local bus services as detailed in the Appendix; and (4) agree to reduce local bus service provision by removing all Sunday journeys, all Monday to Saturday journeys after 6pm and the 350 Stranraer to Cairnryan service at an overall saving in 2016/17 of £305,488.
6.3 Members of the Board are asked to consider the options presented for achieving the £315,000 required savings for 2016/17 and agree to reduce the publicity budget by £10,000 and reduce local bus services by removing all Sunday journeys, all Monday to Saturday journeys after 6pm and the 350 Stranraer to Cairnryan service at an overall saving in 2016/17 of £305,488.
Dumfries and Galloway covers 2400 square miles. It is the third largest (by area, not population) l;ocal authority region in Scotland. Since it was axed in 1965, there is no direct rail link between the two largest towns in the region- Stranraer and Dumfries - which are about 70 miles apart. Buses are therefore an essential service which connects communities across the region.
I had listened to the local BBC radio news for the region on Thursday morning- but there was no mention of the meeting on Friday and the plan to axe Sunday and evening bus services. So I immediately e-mailed BBC Dumfries quoting the Swestrans agenda and politely wondering if they were aware of this news story.
I also posted about the bus axe threat on Facebook before going shopping. I bought a copy of the local (Stewartry of Kirkcudbright) Galloway News and found they had covered the story on page three. This I scanned and posted on Facebook and then messaged the Galloway News’ sister paper the Dumfries and Galloway Standard . Stuart Gillespie replied- he had written the Galloway news story and one of his colleagues had written a story on the buses for Friday’s Standard.
The local Greens were obviously aware of the threat but what about RISE and the local SNP MSPs? Just in case they were not, I passed on details of the Swestrans report.
By the afternoon BBC South of Scotland had the story on their webpage and it was featured on the BBC Dumfries news at 4.30 and 5.30.
There were also press releases from the Scottish Greens, RISE and SNP MSPs and both the Greens and RISE plan to protest at the meeting on Friday morning.
No doubt most of this would have happened anyway but hopefully my flurry of networking activity nudged things along.
Certainly my fear that the meeting would happen and the decision to axe the bus services be made before anyone had the chance to object has been removed. Since the report recommending cutting the services was dated 4 March and was buried in a lengthy document this could easily have happened. On one of my Facebook post's I quote from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy-
“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The rest of this post documents the day’s activities and outcomes.
1.Swestrans agenda/ reports
2.Galloway News Story
3. BBC South of Scotland news story
A string of Sunday and evening bus services in Dumfries and Galloway could be scrapped in a bid to save more than £300,000.
The South West of Scotland Transport Partnership (SWestrans) is to meet to discuss the move on Friday.
It is being asked to remove all Sunday buses and services after 6pm on Monday to Saturday on numerous routes.
Along with the removal of a Stranraer to Cairnryan service it would result in an overall saving of £305,000.
A report on the issue said a "challenging financial settlement" for Dumfries and Galloway
Council had led to it deciding to reduce the revenue budget available to SWestrans by 9% or £315,000 for financial year 2016/17.
Part of the saving will be achieved by reducing spending on printing timetables by £10,000.
However, the remainder will be taken from "supporting socially necessary local bus services".
If agreed, the services could be terminated by 9 May this year.
4. RISE press release
RISE condemns South West of Scotland Transport Partnership’s (SWestrans) proposal to slash its bus services in Dumfries and Galloway. If implemented, the plans would cut numerous services on Sundays, and services on other days after six in the evening (http://swestrans.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=17317&p=0), further undermining South Scotland’s already weakened transport network.
SWestrans are meeting to discuss this tomorrow, Friday 11th March at 10.30am at the Murray Arms in Gatehouse Of Fleet. RISE will attend to make the point that privatisation of our transport network has been a disaster, and that we need a fully-funded public alternative to stop depopulation of our rural areas.
We will also highlight the impact of the national cuts agenda. SWestrans has been left in this position after Dumfries and Galloway Council agreed on 29th February to cut funding for the provision of socially necessary local bus services by £315,000 with effect from 1 April 2016.
RISE believe that this lends further credence to our position that a radical change is needed in how local councils are funded. We are proposing the income-based Scottish Service Tax (SST) as an alternative system. Under SST, over 70% of Scottish households would pay less, but funding for councils would increase by £2 billion per annum, allowing us to protect vital local services like those offered by SWestrans. The SNP had promised in its 2011 Manifesto to replace the Council Tax with a “fairer system based on the ability to pay”
(http://votesnp.com/campaigns/SNP_Manifesto_2011_lowRes.pdf), but last week announced that it would be keeping the Council Tax in place.
RISE are also committed to bringing control of public transport back into the hands of the public, rather than having them run by private companies seeking huge profits. We want a free network of buses and trains that serve not just those routes that make the most money, but the most isolated and rural communities like those which will be affected by the cuts in SWestrans services.
RISE candidate for South Scotland Dan Foley said: “As someone who lives in a rural community in Dumfries and Galloway, I understand all too well that the current public transport services in Dumfries and Galloway are both expensive and not fit for purpose. Further cuts to the services funded by the local council will just serve to make the situation even worse and increase isolation for those who can’t afford to travel by car.”
5. Scottish Green Party Press Release
Sarah Beattie-Smith, lead candidate for the Greens in the South of Scotland and Green spokesperson on infrastructure said:
“The decision to cut all Sunday and evening bus services will be a devastating blow for many low-paid people across Dumfries and Galloway. Shift workers like nurses, care workers and those employed in hospitality and tourism will find themselves unable to get to work and in some cases out of a job. While those who can afford it will turn to the car, therefore putting more cars on the road and increasing congestion and pollution, those who cannot will be isolated and cut off from economic and educational opportunities and from society at large. The loss of this lifeline service is a political choice, not an inevitability. We urge Swestrans to reconsider their decision”.
Laura Moodie, Dumfries & Galloway Greens Co-convenor said: “In recent local surveys of bus users, carried out by local Greens, the clamour was for more services, not less, especially at weekends and in the evenings. Young people in particular will feel the burden of these cuts and they could have a negative impact on visitor numbers and perception of the region. Over 14,000 homes within Dumfries & Galloway do not have a vehicle. Of these, over 2,500 are considered to be in remotely rural locations. A bus service for those without cars is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”
6 . SNP MSPs Press Release
South of Scotland MSPs Aileen McLeod and Joan McAlpine have today (Thursday) called for an urgent rethink of proposed cuts to public transport provision for the region, which would see bus services after 6pm and all buses on Sundays scrapped. Regional Transport Partnership Swestrans will make the decision at its meeting in Gatehouse of Fleet tomorrow.
Aileen McLeod commented:
“Everyone knows that savings need to be made and every political group on Dumfries & Galloway Council included a reduction in funding for public transport in their budget proposals at the end of February. But the impact of these proposals will be severe – the idea that in a matter of weeks’ time buses running after 6pm and on Sundays might be scrapped just beggars belief.
Joan McAlpine added:
“I cannot believe that this is the only viable option to save money out of a £3.5 million budget and it is bound to have a significant negative affect on people who currently rely on bus services to get to and from work, education and NHS services. Money needs to be saved but these plans need to be re-thought urgently.”