Local MP, Huw Merriman, has called for East Sussex County Council to engage with communities to deliver a ‘bold and ambitious’ bid for Government funding for improved bus services for East Sussex.
The call came after Cllr Christine Bayliss, Rother District Council’s Cabinet lead for Regeneration and Chair of the Bexhill Town Centre Steering Group, submitted community views based on public consultation across Bexhill on the demand for bus services. The County Council responded to say it did not currently have time to consult directly with communities.
The Government’s new national bus strategy dedicates £3billion to bus improvements. Funding will go to local authorities with the most ambitious plans to improve their bus services.
The Government’s guidance for producing the Bus Improvement Plan makes it a mandatory requirement for the County Council to ‘seek and report the views of passengers and third parties on the merits and demerits of bus services locally’. This should involve local transport users groups, MPs, local services and business organisations and so on.
Mr Merriman is Chair of the Transport Select Committee, which originally made the recommendation to Government that it adopt a Bus Strategy to improve services.
Welcoming the community engagement from Rother District Council, the MP said:
‘The Government’s funding guidelines make it clear that the County Council need to engage with the community to find out what sort of services are needed in our area. The Bus Service Improvement Plan is not a detailed document but at its heart and start, must be community engagement to demonstrate what passengers want and where they want it.
I was disappointed when the County Council confirmed that have outsourced the production of this plan to a external consultants and then told Cllr Bayliss that they would not have time to engage. Outsourcing should not be required when the sum of £100,000 was awarded for each authority to directly employ a new officer to become a local Buses Tsar.
Having spent so much time to help deliver this nationally, I will be disappointed if nothing changes for us in East Sussex. With an elderly and rural demographic, we need to invest in better bus services.’
Cllr Bayliss said “As we emerge from the pandemic, we have to make sure our bus services support the local recovery. Our survey provides the evidence that Bexhill people want better bus services to get to work and to shop local. We welcome the support from our local MP and hope that the County Council will take on board the views of local residents.”