People power has forced a County Hall U-turn over the scrapping of subsidies for rural buses across Lancashire.
Cabinet members were hearing today that controversial plans to save £3.8m by withdrawing support from all loss-making evening and weekend services are to be abandoned due to a public outcry.
Instead the authority intends to review 72 routes on their individual merits, while at the same time ordering operators to cough up more to keep “lifeline” services running.
County councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, revealed the switch had come about after a programme of public consultation meetings demonstrated the strength of feeling against subsidy cuts.
He was expected to tell today’s cabinet meeting: “Together we’ve had frank and honest discussions about the challenges we face and how best we can respond as a community to the significant financial pressures being placed on us by the Government.
“As a result I’m pleased to say that the removal of subsidies to all evening and weekend services, on a blanket basis, will not be going ahead.
“Whilst reviewing every bus route on a case-by-case basis over the next few years it is my ambition to work with operators to push for a better deal for Lancashire.
“I will be asking that where companies make significant profits from popular routes in the county they work to help offset the costs of those which are less profitable or make losses.”
Coun David Borrow, deputy leader of the council, added: “We cannot continue to give millions of pounds to subsidise the profits of companies running these routes.
“We need a new deal for Lancashire.”
The announcement was good news for campaigners across the county, like the Lune Valley where a “Save Our Buses” protest resulted in a 1,300-name petition being presented to Coun Fillis at a public meeting in Caton.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to hear that,” said campaigner Ursula Gallie.
“Coun Fillis said he would listen and it looks like he has. It’s a victory of a kind for us, although we are still a bit nervous about what will happen next.”