County councillors in Eden have called for an investigation to be carried out to see how the provision of bus services can best be supported in the district.
Neil Hughes (Lib Dem, Eden Lakes) said he would like to see county council officers draw up a report in order for the Eden local committee on the subject.
He told an online meeting last week that local committees can support bus services, if they wish to, and it was his hope that existing funds could be used towards bus services in the area — as well as any new government money, should it come in.
Patricia Bell (Lib Dem, Penrith), who seconded the motion, said: “It’s about being ready to seize any opportunities that maybe available to us in the future.
“COVID has made travelling really difficult, bus companies are struggling, perhaps more than they were before, but we are beholden as elected members to make sure that we have got all the opportunities at our fingertips so were additional bus funding to become available we know exactly which routes we could promote for which reasons.”
Helen Fearon (Con, Penrith) said several years ago Cumbria County Council’s administration took a decision as part of their budget discussions, not to support commercial service buses from the bus service operators grant.
As result, Ms Fearon said, the county council sent back £1.4 million to Whitehall in bus service operator grant money.
The cash could not be spent because the council resolved only to support community transport solutions and not commercial service buses.
She asked if that policy still stood.
However, Andy Connell (Lib Dem, Appleby) said: “There is no such county council policy.
“This is an extrapolation from the 2014 budget decision, but it was not established as a policy, although officers thought it was for years — it has now been established that actually there is no such policy.”
Area manager Nick Wright suggested this be put on the agenda of the rural issues working group, but Mrs Bell and Ms Fearon felt that this issue deserved a wider focus.
Mrs Bell said: “Penrith is now an extremely big place. It is very difficult to walk from the outskirts of town to the centre.
“The town bus is not running again and the developers in the next six months, maybe nine months, will be making an additional contribution to the bus service — so this is much wider than just a rural issue, it’s actually now an urban issue.”
Committee chairman Phil Dew (Con, Kirkby Stephen) said: “Buses, be it rural or urban, are a very important matter for our residents and as councillors we have a duty and a responsibility to consider them.”
It was agreed by a unanimous vote to support the motion proposed by Mr Hughes.