Every South Glos village should have hourly bus service, say councillors
A CALL has been made for hourly bus services to every South Gloucestershire village with more than 300 residents.
But a South Gloucestershire Council debate about improving services descended into a political row after the ruling Conservative group accused opposition Liberal Democrats of wanting to “sneak through” the introduction of car parking charges – a claim the Lib Dems denied.
Thornbury ward Lib Dem councillor Jayne Stansfield asked members to endorse a report by countryside charity the CPRE, highlighting the inadequacy of rural bus services and suggesting how improvements could be funded.
She told the meeting on May 21: “Ideally we would like to see a bus every hour to every village above 300 people, as proposed by the CPRE.
“This is ambitious but it can be done.”
She said the goal could be achieved if money was diverted from projects such as planned road-building to buses.
The motion called on the council to work with the West of England Combined Authority mayor and Department for Transport to deliver an effective bus network.
But the Tories said the CPRE report also suggested introducing or increasing car parking charges, which is against the council’s long-standing policy of making them free to residents.
Car parking was not mentioned in the motion, which was altered by the Lib Dems before the meeting to make clear a commitment to free parking.
The Conservatives tabled an amendment removing support for bus franchising and placing the burden to deliver better rural bus services on Weca and new Labour metro mayor Dan Norris, who has responsibility for strategic transport in the region, rather than the council.
Cabinet member for regeneration, environment and strategic infrastructure Steve Reade said the motion did not recognise "the major investment that has been made to enable and enhance bus services and bus provision".
He said: “We will continue to work with Weca on providing a better bus service and I actually look forward to working with the new West of England mayor in delivering on his promise of a better bus service.”
The Tories’ amended motion was passed. It was opposed by Lib Dems, while Labour abstained.
Conservative council leader Toby Savage accused Lib Dems of either seeking "to endorse a report they haven’t read", sneaking through an attempt to "dump" the council's free parking policy or making a "careless mistake".
Lib Dem leader Claire Young in turn accused the Tories of playing "silly political games" with a "wholly confected argument about car parking charges".
She said the motion had "got the Conservative administration to acknowledge that our rural bus network is in dire need of investment".
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Caption: Thornbury councillor Jayne Stansfield called for increased rural bus services