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Over 100 concerned residents condemn county council proposals to cut local bus services at public meeting in Ore.

The packed meeting held at the Ore Centre on Monday was arranged by Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Hastings & Rye, Sarah Owen and local county councillor Michael Wincott. The event was the latest in a series of roving Don’t Stop Our Bus public meetings that Labour are holding throughout the constituency. It follows meetings in St Helens and Westfield with further meetings to be arranged in Hollington, Baird, Tressell, Rye, Pett, Brede, Fairlight and Winchelsea Beach.

During the meeting, Sarah highlighted the impact these cuts will have on local people. County councillor Michael Wincott confirmed that the entire Labour group on the council were strongly opposed to the proposals due to their impact on those on low incomes, people with disabilities and the effect the changes would have on employees and employers.

Sarah Owen said:

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“Everybody in Hastings and the surrounding areas are going to be affected by these proposed changes to local bus services.  It threatens our local economy, businesses, employment rates, the environment and seriously impacts on people’s quality of life, particularly those who have no other means of transport.

“People from all walks of life at the meeting in Ore told us loud and clear that bus services in the Hastings are a vital lifeline for them. There were serious concerns raised about how people would be able to get to and from work, hospital, shops, colleges, children’s and care centres as well as church, especially with a lot of the proposed services to be axed by East Sussex County Council (ESCC) falling on a Sunday.

I agree savings need to be made, but ESCC need to show some business sense and a backbone.  They should go back and negotiate with Stagecoach to make the bus company take on some of the less profitable bus routes.  County Councillors in Lewes should stop choosing our area to suffer the most severe cuts in the county and look at more innovative, fairer ways of saving money.”

“The meeting wasn’t just packed with people angry about the proposed cuts to bus services, but also about how the Conservative-controlled council are carrying out their poor excuse of a ‘consultation.’  The consultation document is too long, not user friendly and everybody at the meeting reported that they have struggled to get hold of a copy – We took details of people who requested more copies and are encouraging them to fill out both the official document and my Don’t Stop Our Bus petition postcards, as it has been confirmed they will both form part of the final submission to the official consultation.”

Local resident and local bus user Andrew who attended the meeting said:

“I’d like to thank Sarah and Michael for organising this meeting as without them we would never of heard about this. The most worrying thing about these proposals are the fact that shift workers and those that do 12 hour shifts have little chance of being able to get to work and back. Some of my friends that work at the Conquest hospital and Tesco in Hollington might not be able to afford to get to work anymore. Has the council done any assessment of how this will affect working people?”

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Councillor Wincott also drew attention to seemingly contradictory statements from cabinet members at County Hall,

“They seem to be making it up as they go along. Not long ago, local councillors met with County officers and cabinet members as we were concerned that the new link road would lead to unacceptable delays on The Ridge. The Conservative lead member for transport assured us that the council would encourage greater use of public transport. Abolishing Sunday bus services to the Conquest Hospital tells us that those were hollow words. There is clearly no joined-up thinking by the political leadership in Lewes.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Sarah Owen asked the audience whether anyone supported the proposals. Not one person put up their hand.