Angry protesters are preparing to launch a campaign across the Ribble Valley against savage bus cuts.
Several meetings have been held about the controversial plans by Lancashire County Council to withdraw the subsidy for hundreds of bus services.
It is a decision that campaigners claim will leave many elderly vulnerable people, workers, students, parents and children across the Valley without public transport.
The campaign is being backed by Ribble Valley MP Mr Nigel Evans who attended a meeting in Mellor and slammed the public consultation as a “sham”.
He said: “Lancashire County Council is undertaking a public consultation on public transport which runs until March 27th. However, they have also notified passengers that some services will be stopped on February 21st.
“Not only is this situation misleading and unfair to local residents, it makes the consultation a sham and would not be out of place in North Korea.”
Mr Evans said the importance of the bus services to rural communities could not be underestimated and if the subsidies were cut many elderly and vulnerable people across the Ribble Valley would lose their independence and be cut off . He said: “Around 70 people came to the meeting which shows the grave concern that many people have in the Ribble Valley. Residents pay more than their fair share in council cax and it is vital that they receive the services they pay for. I will continue to lobby Lancashire County Council as to the importance of these bus services and of the folly of their removal.”
Over the next five years the county council must deliver savings of £262m. on top of those previously agreed and a raft of cuts to bus services is among the proposals to help fund the shortfall.
Retired lecturer and regular bus user Mr Stewart Kent, of Clitheroe, said: “The main aim is to get the message out to as many people as possible so they can be aware of what is happening, this is a massive issue across Lancashire.”
A facebook page, Save Our Chipping Bus, has been set up by campaigners in Chipping after a public meeting on Monday.
Protester Sharon Pinkett, who owns Brabin’s shop and tea room, said a group of protesters are planning to attend a budget meeting at county hall on Thursday, February 11th, when the decision will be made about the cuts.
A spokesman for Lancashire County Counci said the consulation was being held to deal with the aftermath of the cuts.
He told the Advertiser: “These savings have to be found, there is no way round that and we cannot make cuts to statutory services such as child protection. It is unfair to say the consultation is a sham because we want people to express their views and if there is enough strength of feeling then county councillors may have to review the options.”
Full details of the consultation process are available at the council website http://www.lancashire.gov.uk under Budget proposal consultation.