Calls for bus support

A COUNCILLOR has called for some of the £4m pot to be used to reinstate axed bus services to help villagers.

Independent councillor Hilary Thompson told her fellow cabinet members that a partially-sighted elderly resident was last week forced to walk from Elwick into Hartlepool for a doctor’s appointment because his wife does not drive and there was no public transport available.

Coun Thompson agreed with the contributions to the specific reserves but said she could not agree with plans to move a further £89,000 of surplus cash into the council’s general fund.

The Elwick ward councillor argued that money could be used to provide a reduced bus service for Elwick and Dalton Piercy, which have been cut off as a result of budget cuts, for up to five years.

Coun Thompson said: “There is a vulnerable section of our community in the villages without public transport.

“We have taken away a service and we need to put it back because as far as the villages of Dalton Piercy and Elwick are concerned we are not a caring council.”

Labour councillor Pamela Hargreaves said she has been working closely with council officers to see what effect scrapping the £287,000 supported bus services budget has had.

Coun Hargreaves said the response from 608 questionnaires failed to establish a “real need” but said there would always be individual cases of people needing more help than others.

A report is due to go to the council’s scrutiny co-ordinating committee and it could see a bespoke service for vulnerable people set up.

She added that East Durham Communicare, which is currently running a trial service three days a week in Elwick and Dalton Piercy, says reinstating a full bus service is not “economically viable”.