MP revolts over Rye bus cuts

Where the cuts could fall - hitting those who depend on buses to visit hospitals and surgeries

Amber Rudd, our local Conservative MP, strongly opposes “any cuts to the bus services” she tells one of her constituents in a letter from the House of Commons. Meanwhile the Tory-dominated East Sussex County Council is engaged in a public consultation over proposed cuts and is expected to make a decision by the end of September. Cuts in subsidies would impact seriously on the frequency of bus services.

“As part of this consultation, I have written in the strongest terms to East Sussex County Council urging them not to make these cuts,” writes the MP in the letter to a Rye resident. “A reliable bus service is essential to me, and I believe that these cuts should not go ahead.”

Rye is particularly badly hit by proposed cuts in funding. It would lose around two thirds of its local 326 service and Dial-a-Ride, while the plans would cut village services by only half. However the villages are up in arms and holding “Don’t Stop Our Bus” meetings. Peasmarsh would be particularly badly hit because of the recent refusal by NHS England to allow a satellite doctors’ surgery in the village. The refusal comes just as existing bus links to local doctors may be cut by half – Peasmarsh felt the surgery was necessary even before the proposed bus cuts.

Villagers intending to fight the cuts are holding a meeting in Pett Village Hall at 5pm on Wednesday August 20; Fairlight Village Hall is the scene of another at 2pm on Thursday August 28. A third is planned at Winchelsea Beach on September 5.

Our graphic above shows where the proposed cuts are planned.

Amber Rudd says she recognises that savings needs to be made and that the county council faces some difficult decisions. The proposals, she says, are designed to make cuts on services that are not economically beneficial. “This means they are focusing on the services which are seldom used by residents. Despite this, it is important to ensure that the vulnerable, elderly and those in rural village areas are not completely cut off.”

The MP singles out two areas that concern Rye in particular: “The proposals to reduce the current ‘on-demand’ Dial-a-Ride services are not welcome. Similarly, I do not support the reduction in the 326 service (the only local service in Rye) from six days a week down to just two, with no service at all at the weekend.”

The county council, she says, should be seen to be co-operating with the bus companies and pro-actively getting them to seek what other alternatives can be found so that those services which are being affected are not so drastically cut.

The county council proposes to cut the 326 service down to a Tuesday and Friday service only and to make Dial-a-Ride available only on Wednesday and Saturday – though few medical and similar appointments, for example, are made for weekends. Services to both Rye’s local hospital and the large general hospital in Hastings are being slashed. Currently three bus routes serve Rye Memorial Hospital  stopping there around 30 times a day, and these will be halved.

Peasmarsh village , which is currently fighting NHS refusal to permit a satellite GP doctor’s surgery in the village, will lose links to both the Rye and Hastings hospitals, and to doctors in Rye in particular, when the 344 service is halved. The 340 service from Broad Oak to the Conquest is also halved, as are the 344 and 347 services linking Fairlight and Pett to Hastings, and those latter villages are now taking action.

Full details of the cuts are given in a survey the council has distributed through public libraries. Replies must be returned by September 28 and the cuts could be introduced from March 2015.

* Click here to read Amber Rudd’s letter in full