The Member of Parliament for Stroud and Member of Parliament for The Cotswolds are very concerned about the removal of bus service route 84/85 from the town of Wotton-under-Edge. The consequence of thisdecision will have a dramatic impact on non car driving residents of the town.
They have been informed that people have already lost their jobs as a result of this impending decision. Though a 3-month extension has been approved, this only kicks the problem down the road and a lasting solution is needed to give residents security.
The Member’s of Parliament have been in touch with Dan Norris, the Metro Mayor for the West of England Combined Authority who with the South Gloucestershire Council fund these particular bus services and also with Cllr Mark Hawthorne the Leader at Gloucestershire County Council, who have a responsibility to provide bus services for Gloucestershire.
Wotton is an isolated rural community and there is a real need to have transport to access NHS services, employment and for numerous other reasons.
Although both authorities are planning to have some sort of on demand service, this currently ends at Katherine Lady Berkeley’s School which is not satisfactory for people who need to access the service from the centre of Wotton.
They are strongly pressing the relevant authorities to see what more can be done to avoid the cancellation of these routes or to better fill the gap they will leave.
We enclose a copy of the letter we have written to WECA, GCC and SGC.
Open letter to Dan Norris, (Metro Mayor of West of England Combined Authority), Cllr Ian Boulton (Co-leader of South Gloucestershire Council) and Cllr Mark Hawthorne (Leader of Gloucestershire County Council):
As the Member of Parliament for the Cotswolds which encompasses Wotton-under-Edge and the Member of Parliament for Stroud, we are very keen to find a solution to saving the bus service 84/85 serving the people of Wotton under edge in Gloucestershire.
Just to put this whole matter into context, Wotton is a small rural town, geographically situated in Gloucestershire by 2 miles from the South Gloucestershire Authority border. The service links Wotton to the larger town of Yate. The problem for non-car drivers in Wotton is that there are few services in the town (medical, jobs, banking etc.) and they are very isolated without public bus services, which are therefore vital.
Even the on-demand service ends at Katharine Lady Berkeley's School so is not helpful to residents who need to travel to and from the centre of Wotton. Services 84/85 were due to end in the next day or so but we now understand a temporary extension has been agreed. Whilst we welcome this 3 month extension, it does not provide the long term certainty residents need to continue with employment, education or other services and leisure activities.
The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) who administer these services on behalf of South Gloucestershire decided to close them because their subsidy was ended by WECA and South Gloucestershire.
Yesterday I spoke to Dan Norris, Mayor of WECA and this morning Siobhan and myself had a high level meeting with Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Leader of Gloucestershire County Council and Cllr Philip Robinson, cabinet member for bus transport at Gloucestershire County Council. They inform us that in February of this year they offered to provide funds to help support the subsidy that is needed.
I appeared on Radio Gloucestershire this morning, and I am joined by Siobhan to strongly urge all three authorities (GCC, SGC, WECA) to meet imminently with a clear ambition to find a lasting solution for the residents of Wotton in the near future.
We are publishing this as an open letter so that all three authorities are fully aware of the two MP’s views about the imperative need to continue to provide a bus service for the people of Wotton.
Geoffrey and Siobhan
Comment from Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown MP:
“I have been contacted by numerous constituents, and there is an action group of 400 people as well as a petition with 2000 people which is enormous for a town the size of Wotton.
“I absolutely understand the sense of isolation that Wotton residents feel as a result of the loss of this essential service particularly following the closure of Lloyds Bank.
“I am strongly urging WECA, GCC and South Gloucestershire Council to come up with a solution which does not isolate the people of Wotton.
“I welcome the subsequent news that West of England Combined Authority, Gloucestershire County Council, South Gloucestershire Council and Wotton-under-Edge Town Council have worked together to fund and organise an emergency service in the short term. However, I will continue to press for a long term solution so that the people of Gloucestershire can have confidence that they have a regular bus service.”
Comment from leader of GCC and Cllr Philip Robinson, Cabinet member for bus transport
“We knew from the outset just how damaging these cuts would be for our residents, when we were first made aware of the proposals at the start of this year. This is why we have worked extensively with our partners to find a solution. We’re pleased to financially contribute to this 3 month offer but ultimately we want a longer term solution for our residents.”