Image: Cllr Liz Brennan, the Conservative Group’s Shadow Cabinet member for Planning, Regeneration and Infrastructure
The Labour WECA Mayor’s multi-million pound publicity stunt is a kick in the teeth for residents who have had their bus services cut, Conservatives say.
It follows the news this week that people living in South Gloucestershire are to get free bus travel during the month of their birthday.
This initiative will cost the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) a staggering £8m, despite Labour WECA Mayor Dan Norris making widespread cuts to frontline services on the grounds that he can’t afford to fund them.
The WECA Mayor claims the Bus Birthday Pass, as it’s billed, will encourage more people to use public transport. But no evidence for this claim has been made available.
Cllr Liz Brennan, the Conservative Group’s Shadow Cabinet member for Planning, Regeneration and Infrastructure, said: “I am utterly perplexed at the WECA Mayor’s decision to waste a colossal £8m on what amounts to nothing more than a desperate publicity gimmick and a shameless act of self-promotion.
“Eight million pounds is an enormous sum of money that could easily be put towards resurrecting all the services that have been cut after the WECA Mayor claimed he could no longer fund them.
“We hear all the time from residents who have been left isolated due to the bus cuts, with vulnerable people unable to get to hospital appointments, visit their family and friends or even simply do their weekly shopping. Instead of giving people free travel for one month of the year on already existing services, it would be much more sensible to put that money towards resurrecting services that have been cut and that have left people isolated.
“Rather than continuing to waste public money on swanky new office blocks, large increases in back office staff and now multi-million pound giveaways for people during their birthday month, I urge the WECA Mayor to use this additional government funding wisely and continue to support services such as the 622 or the 84/85 services – and as many others as possible.
“With his ever-increasing catalogue of wasteful spending, the WECA Mayor simply cannot continue to say that no money is available for public transport in South Gloucestershire.”
Following the local elections in May, South Gloucestershire Council is now run by a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, despite the Conservative Group emerging as the largest party.
The Conservative opposition challenged the new administration on the wasteful Birthday Bus Pass at last night’s Full Council meeting, but Labour and Lib Dem councillors chose not to respond.