Cuts in bus subsidies are “socially regressive” and threaten to leave elderly people stranded say campaigners and opposition politicians.
Data requested by Labour under freedom of information (FOI) laws found that local authorities in England are cutting subsidies to bus services as much as 55 per cent.
Shire counties have cut their subsidies by 23 per cent from an average of £5.62 million in 2010/11 to £4.34 million in 2013/14, while unitary authorities (councils large enough to function independently of county administrations) have undergone cuts of 24 per cent from an average of £1.20 million in 2010/11 to £0.91 million in 2013/14.
The figures, uncovered by shadow communities and local government secretary Hilary Benn, come months after a report by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) warned that three councils had already stopped supporting bus services altogether, while services continue to decline in wake of the cuts.
Mr Benn said that vulnerable people would be left “stranded”. “It couldn’t be clearer to local residents that vital front-line services are disappearing dramatically as cuts to councils intensify.”
Transport campaigners warn that bus subsidies are an easy target for reductions in support compared to other areas.
A CBT spokesman warned: “This is a socially regressive policy – not just for vulnerable and elderly people living in remote rural areas but also for people attempting to access colleges and the workplace.”
A Government spokesman said: “We know that rural bus services are vital, including for many older and disabled people. That is why the right to free travel is enshrined in law and government provides funding to meet the cost of subsidising off peak travel for these groups.”