OPINION: The West Wolds Labour Party column with Richard Bryon

West Wolds Labour ran a campaign for the return of the Pock bus service.
West Wolds Labour ran a campaign for the return of the Pock bus service.

All the local East Riding newspapers have recently contained articles relating to substantial cuts to local bus services, and reports of bus service providers handing back contracts to Local Authorities for commercial reasons.

Ten years ago, Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown introduced the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) which gives senior citizens and some qualifying disabled people free bus travel throughout England.

Not only has this scheme boosted the rural economy, particularly in small market towns, but it has helped countless people to get out of isolated rural areas to meet people and share in social activities.

However, since the days of the last Labour government, successive Conservative governments have cut subsidies and grants to local authorities to the tune of £75 million nationally.

This has resulted in lower payments from the government to bus service providers of the ENCTS, thus leaving many services commercially unviable.

Many rural inhabitants now face the prospect of having a free bus pass, but no bus to use it on and the risk of further rural isolation.

These bus subsidy cuts come hot on the heels of a report that shows the stark contrast in public spending on transport between London and northern areas of Britain, where it is estimated that only £190 per head will be spent in Yorkshire and the Humber (on current or planned projects from 2017 onwards), compared with £1,943 per head in London (Guardian, 20/02/2017).

Another benefit of public transport is the reduction in car use.

West Wolds Labour firmly believes in public investment in services and recently ran a high profile campaign to reinstate a Town Bus Service for Pocklington.

Pocklington Town Council agreed to set aside funds to run a service two days a week, which will hopefully reduce car use and free up parking in the town.

Thanks go to branch members who worked on this campaign, running street stalls, delivering questionnaires and getting signatures for the petition.

Members of the East Yorkshire Constituency Labour Party and the National Farmers Union (NFU) met together earlier this year. Concerns about the lack of rural public transport were shared, alongside the need to upgrade broadband for village shops and Post Offices, better access to health service provision and the lack of rural policing.

West Wolds Labour is pushing hard through the Labour Party National Policy Forum to include policies relating to rural issues in the next national Labour election manifesto.

Raising rural public transport subsidies, keeping mobile libraries running, providing extra payments to keep village and outreach Post Offices open, providing incentives to upgrade rural broadband and increasing police resourcing for rural crime prevention are some of the measures that could be carried out by the next Labour Government.

We need to make national politicians in the seats of power in Westminster and the councillors in Beverley who deliver the cuts realise that rural areas and the people who reside in them matter just as much as larger towns and cities.