LANCASHIRE County Council has launched a ‘root and branch’ review of bus subsidies after a humiliating U-turn on the issue earlier this year.
In December, the authority’s transport boss John Fillis announced it was considering axing cash support for 72 weekend services including 37 across Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Ribble Valley and Chorley to save £3.8 million over two years.
In January, Blackburn with Darwen council started a review of evening and Sunday services on 16 routes.
In February the county reversed its decision to make blanket cuts in favour of reviewing each service on a case-by-case basis as contracts with private bus operators ended.
Last night Coun Fillis revealed LCC was devising a new assessment of the value of local bus services when deciding on funding.
A county spokesman said: “This is a root and branch review. We are going back to square one.”
Brian Todd, East Lancashire representative of the National Pensioners’ Convention, said: “This is all very well but it is re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. The county is between a rock and a hard place.
“The government has slashed the money if gives council to pay for bus support.
“As well as a root and branch review of the county council’s policy on subsidies, we need the government to change policy to make any real difference.”
Current guidelines demand a subsidised service makes two-thirds of costs through fares to justify support.
This means some services are more vulnerable to cuts.
The proposed new system is based on their contribution to the economy and getting people to work, education, medical appointments, shops and leisure facilities.
Coun Fillis said: “The changes aim to ensure future decisions about which bus services we support with the limited funding we have are made in a fairer way which takes full account of their value to the community they serve.
"We think our new criteria will result in better decisions.”
Blackburn with Darwen transport boss Maureen Bateson said: “Previous reviews into public transport in the borough have involved the consideration of a number of criteria, not just financial. The council will be considering a similar exercise in advance of the 2015/16 financial year ”