Town rulers split over bus row

CONTROVERSIAL proposals to squeeze Ipswich Buses, leading to cuts to services in several parts of the town, could spark a split in the borough's ruling coalition, The Evening Star can reveal today.

By Paul Geater

CONTROVERSIAL proposals to squeeze Ipswich Buses, leading to cuts to services in several parts of the town, could spark a split in the borough's ruling coalition, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Liberal Democrat councillors - who run the borough in coalition with the Conservatives - today came out against any changes to the relationship with the bus company that would lead to service cuts.

And that could force the borough to abandon its proposals to take £975,600 in dividends from the bus company - and increase its rent in future years.

The chairman of Ipswich Liberal Democrats, Andrew Cann, said his members were totally opposed to any proposals that would reduce bus services in the town.

He said: “That goes totally against everything this party stands for. We cannot accept any proposal that will see bus services cut where they are needed.

Most Read

“We want to see the bus network improve and Liberal Democrats on the council would not support this kind of cutback.”

Mr Cann had spoken to four Liberal Democrat councillors and the first they had heard about the proposal was when they read The Evening Star on Wednesday.

He said: “They had not seen the briefing note and could not possibly support the measures that were published earlier in the week.”

Since the news broke there has been a storm of protest over the plans, with letters of anger and disbelief pouring into the Star's Lower Brook Street offices.

Liberal Democrat group leader Richard Atkins said he knew there had been talk of increasing the amount of rent paid by the bus company - but this should only be within the bounds of what the company could afford.

Conservative council leader Liz Harsant said the briefing note had been distributed to all members of the council's executive, including Mr Atkins and two other Liberal Democrat councillors, and members of the board of Ipswich Buses.

She said: “These proposals are not set in stone, but they are a way forward for the bus company.”

Her deputy, John Carnall, is the man with his hands on the council purse strings. He said: “The bus company has been getting a hidden subsidy from the borough for years.

“It is time that the town's council taxpayers should get some help from the company from the dividends and in rent. Don't forget the council gave the company £3.5 million to close the gap in its pension fund in 2001.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter