There’s a common misconception that buses really aren’t necessary in rural communities, or so it appears as Dorset County Council routinely slashes bus services around Linden Lea. Looking at Crossways, a very working class community in Linden Lea, we will examine the cuts and show how it impacts us all.
Earlier this year Dorset County Council has said that it is to cut all but two of the bus services it supports around the rural communities, including villages of Linden Lea, the council supposedly serves. Among those services to be slashed is the 101 bus from Crossways to Dorchester.
In a statement the Tory Cabinet member for Transport Peter Finney said, “As agreed by the county council last year, we need to save a further £1.85million from our public and schools transport budget in 2017/18 on top of the £500,000 saved from our subsidised bus routes in 2016/17… Our approach aims to develop a sustainable transport network for Dorset by prioritising the remaining subsidy on routes that serve the most people and contribute the most to Dorset’s economy.”
Dawn Badminton-Capps, Bus Users UK Director for England told the Echo: “All councils have a duty under the 1985 Transport Act to provide ‘socially necessary’ buses. These services are a vital lifeline, particularly to vulnerable people.”
As Tories seem to love to do, Finney is hiding behind the figures and ignoring the human cost of the cuts. Young people and old people use buses often because they haven’t driving licenses. Not everyone can afford a chauffeur when the DVLA takes their license away, and kids like their freedom to hang out in town. While poor pensioners and skint teenagers don’t ‘contribute most to Dorset’s economy’ they value their freedom. My stepfather lost his license recently due to a heart condition and my 82 year old Mum was terrified when the DVLA started asking questions about her eyesight. She saw herself permanently stuck in her home.
There is a growing tradition of families moving to the countryside to bring their children up and then children escaping to the cities as they reach a certain age. Many kids view the countryside as ‘boring’ in part because they just can’t access the towns they live near. The result is that communities don’t hang together in the way they used to as young adults of working age leave for good.
Subsidised bus services are there for a reason. They may never be full, yet serve those most in need. This is why we pay our taxes – to look after the vulnerable, young and old.
Thatcher once happily claimed that society is dead. That meant that she had killed off the very social fabric that once held us together. This has been borne out in the spike in physical abuse of disabled people, the ‘scrounger stories’ you read in the papers, not to mention the bigotry and racist abuse that has become a real problem in the country.
No matter what the Tories will tell you, there are ways beyond the economic that everyone has to contribute to society. The elderly have wisdom and knowledge. How often does a new mum call their own mother or grandmother for help with their baby? Children who stay in their communities develop deep social networks that serve to help them and their communities. While sometimes village life can be a bit too cosy with everyone knowing everyone else’s business, this can be a good thing too. If someone hasn’t been seen for a while people will notice and check on them. The vulnerable are looked after by their peers.
There are things far more valuable than money in this world, and destroying the infrastructure that helps its very fabric to remain is unacceptable. Many of these cuts come from the top in distant London through this rubbish ‘austerity programme’, and we need to start fighting back.
Vote Richard Shrubb for Linden Lea this May the 4th and you’ll see a vocal opponent against the cuts that are serving to slash the very fabric that holds our society together!