Saturday, 4 October 2014

Cuts to rural buses and libraries; a toxic brew?



I've started to notice recently more and more concerns being raised about cuts to local bus services;

 

“These bus routes are a lifeline to Rye and our villages, which is why we will be campaigning hard to protect them.
People rely on our bus services to get about town, to work and to school. There are alternatives to reducing the support for these routes which wouldn’t be so damaging to our local economy, businesses and the community.”
http://www.ryeandbattleobserver.co.uk/news/local/real-fear-that-bus-cuts-could-cause-isolation-1-6168117

"The number of people whose lives are being blighted by ‘transport poverty’ in Suffolk is set to increase unless urgent action is taken, a charity has warned.
It is feared up to about 15% of the county could already being ‘locked out’ from modern life due to a lack of access to cars and public transport."
http://www.ipswichstar.co.uk/news/suffolk_transport_poverty_could_get_worse_if_no_action_is_taken_charity_warns_1_3784141


and Unison along with the group 'Campaign for better transport' have also, if you'll excuse the pun, got on board;

http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/blog/buses/how-bus-cuts-are-shrinking-womens-lives

http://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/water-environment-and-transport/key-issues/save-our-buses/your-stories/

and in their report Counting the cost; how cuts are shrinking women’s lives’ Unison raise specific concerns relating to women and cuts to bus services;

“Buses are a lifeline for many women, especially those working in low paid jobs who can’t afford other modes of transport. Women of all ages use buses more than rail services and 82% of eligible older women have a concessionary bus pass, compared to 74% of men8. Our survey found that:
Nearly 40% of women travelled by bus to go shopping or use other public services, like visiting the library or health services.”

Why am I interested/concerned about this? If you add these cuts to the ones being made to rural library services then you have a situation that could leave a lot of people in the communities affected very vulnerable and isolated.

I recently wrote a blog post on behalf of Voices for the Library for ‘Age Uk’ in which I made the following points;


So why are libraries so important to the rural elderly and why must we protect and improve them?


1. They’re accessible
 The obvious advantage of having a local library is that it is local. Accessibility is crucial if you have mobility problems and/or haven’t got the money for bus fare.
3. They help to combat social isolation
Libraries are social places where people can chat, read and keep in touch with the outside world. For elderly people who can’t access a static library, mobile and housebound services can fill the gap. Sometimes a friendly smile from a library worker can make all the difference to an isolated and vulnerable persons day or week.
The comment below sums it up well and applies to any person living or working in a rural setting;
We know that huge numbers of our members rely on a bus to get to work, to do their shopping and access other public services, like hospitals and libraries.”
David Arnold
Policy officer, UNISON




But it doesn't have to be this way, in Northern Ireland many Counties operate a subsidised dial-a-bus 
scheme for the very reason that they recognise that rural isolation is a problem.

"Rural isolation is a big issue for the Department for Rural Development. 
It launched a £16m Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation 

framework two years ago. 

Among the schemes to benefit, were the 11 community transport projects 

across Northern Ireland that allow members, who have paid a small joining fee, 

to book a journey in a bus or car."



"The need for rural buses is growing. Banks are closing branches across 

Northern Ireland. 

Ulster Bank is closing branches in Finaghy, Newtownabbey and Hillsborough. 

Libraries have closed in a number of rural areas over recent years, 

including in Moneymore, County Londonderry and Moy in County Tyrone. 

It has been estimated that one in five of Northern Ireland's pubs closed 

between 2000 and 2013 and the rate is not believed to have slowed down." 
http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-29465193
 
 
see also;
 
http://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/For-professionals/Policy/bus_services_in_rural_areas_may2013.pdf?dtrk=true
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/apr/18/local-bus-services-council-cuts-labour-hilary-benn
http://www.rsnonline.org.uk/services/bus-service-cuts-threaten-rural-communities

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