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Stops pulled out in bus and train row

PUBLISHED: 02:34 14 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:50 03 March 2010

PUBLIC transport across Suffolk has been labelled as being "behind the rest of the country" as the Tories launched a scathing attack on the county's commitment to improving bus and rail links.

PUBLIC transport across Suffolk has been labelled as being "behind the rest of the country" as the Tories launched a scathing attack on the county's commitment to improving bus and rail links.

As Conservative councillors criticised the provision of public transport in the county they also claimed Suffolk is spending nearly 20 per cent less per person on such services than most other parts of the UK.

They went on to accuse Suffolk County Council's Labour-Liberal Democrat administration of failing to set any new improvement targets from next year.

The attack was made during a debate at yesterday's full council meeting at County Hall in Ipswich.

Conservative councillors Jeremy Pembroke and Joanna Spicer, had tabled a motion saying: "That this council wished to improve its commitment to public transport in Suffolk", and after a heated debate the motion was carried by 57 votes to one.

Mrs Spicer, councillor for Blackbourn, said the council's green travel plan was "full of gimmicks," County Hall had overspent by £400,000 this financial year, and they had also failed to embrace private partnerships to help subsidise public transport.

"The £400,000 is over committed and at the moment with next year's budget, this does not allow for any more improvement next year," she said. "What will happen on April 1st?"

She added that the current Best Value Review of council services could provide "a glimmer of hope" but claimed there was room for improvement and Suffolk needed a "better, braver, more reliable policy".

Fellow Conservative county councillor Nigel Barratt, representing Woodbridge, told the meeting: "Suffolk is behind the rest of the country and our immediate neighbours in its provision for public transport.

"If you want to live up to a reputation of being a caring council with the best interests of its residents at heart then you should agree that an improvement of public transport in Suffolk must be a commitment of this council."

At the meeting he claimed Suffolk spends £4.27 per head of the population on public transport, while the national average is £5.20 per head.

Mr Barratt said Norfolk spent more on its population in terms of public transport and along with Cambridgeshire had higher targets for next year, while Suffolk's aim was the same as this year.

Joan Girling, Labour county councillor for Clay Hills, refuted the opposition claims and said: "We've exceeded policy and performance plan for 2000/01 target for increasing the number of parishes receiving the specified minimum level of bus services."

She suggested evidence is gathering to show Suffolk is beating the national trend and seeing a rise in the number of bus passengers, and the county had seen a rise in the number of bus shelters in rural and urban areas.

Mrs Girling said the council had committed to an overspend of £450,000 this financial year, but this was in order to retain many all-day rural services which would otherwise have ceased running.

She also said they were getting more developer funding agreements for bus services like the Rendlesham to Woodbridge route and the authority had just won a Bus Challenge bid, jointly with Norfolk County Council, for the Lowestoft-Yarmouth corridor.

After the meeting Peter Monk, Liberal Democrat leader, described the motion as "a bit of politicing for whatever reason."

"We have always aimed to provide the best level of public transport. It's a continuous improvement," he said.

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