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On Tuesday, Labour’s parliamentary candidate Sarah Owen delivered an impassioned speech in defence of subsidised bus routes at a full council meeting at County Hall in Lewes.bus 1

Her near-7,000-strong ‘Don’t Stop Our Bus’ petition, collected during a twelve week period, has triggered a full debate at East Sussex County Council. Sarah also ran eleven packed public meetings on the issue throughout Hastings and Rye over the summer. 

Councillors arrived at County Hall to scores of protesters waving placards. The crowd was made up of young and old, able-bodied and disabled, all protesting against the unfairness of the proposed cuts to our buses.

During her speech Sarah said, “These bus cuts and cuts to dial-a-ride will hit our most vulnerable sections of society hardest. And this is where the economic and social damage to our county is seen with stark clarity.  The rural services, in villages, is where we have some of our highest pockets of elderly residents – their bus is their lifeline to the outside world and for many, it is their only option.”

Sarah described how her campaign had been supported by people from every walk of life, from across the political spectrum and from people living throughout the county. She told councillors that the proposed service cuts would have a dramatic effect on the Hastings and Rye economy and warned that it would devastate some areas, particular those that rely on tourism, shift workers and businesses that need footfall from bus passengers.

Following her speech, Councillor John Hodges, Labour’s Transport Spokesperson at the County Council, proposed a motion calling on the council’s Conservative-only cabinet to reject the proposed cuts to subsidised buses when it meets to vote on the proposals next Wednesday (10th December).

Following an, at times, fractious debate, Cllr Hodges’ motion was carried: 25 voted in favour, 21 voted against. Hastings’ only Conservative county councillor, Peter Pragnell, voted Against.

The final decision on the proposed cuts will be made on Tuesday 16th December at the county cabinet meeting. It is important to note that the cabinet is made up entirely of Conservative councillors and no cabinet member lives in Hastings or St Leonards.