More than 1,000 sign petition against stripping community asset
MORE than 1,000 people have signed a petition to save a community asset after civic chiefs proposed to stop funding it. Under proposals revealed recently by the Echo, Hampshire County Council plans to completely strip community transport services of grants in order to address an anticipated budget shortfall of £140m by April 2019.
It claims £2million could be saved by completely stopping the grants to the service. But members of the Test Valley Community Services (TVCS) based at Basepoint Business Centre in Romsey say the £8,000 funding it receives will dramatically reduce the help it can provide. So far around 1,200 people have supported the cause, but the group of volunteers say more is needed. As reported last month, following public consultation, HCC officers suggested almost £20m could be saved by the tabled cuts which could see school crossing patrols and subsidised bus services and community transport lose their entire funding pot.
An additional £1.2m could be saved by closing household waste recycling centres – £100,000 per site – and amending the hours of the rest. These proposals will be considered by the county council’s cabinet on Monday, October 16, with a final decision due on November 2. “You would not be allowed to print it,” said Test Valley borough councillor and chairperson of TVCS Dorothy Baverstock, when asked for her initial reaction to the plans. “We don’t know what is going to happen now; we will hold a meeting next week to discuss it further. “The point of starting the petition was to show the council that they are wrong in what they are doing. We do not want anything extra, just what we had before.” She added: “Our buses are out every day all across Test Valley. All our drivers are volunteers and we help hundreds of people every week.” The news comes just weeks after TVCS, which is run by volunteers, unveiled a fourth minibus to their fleet – their first for three years. The vehicle was funded by a grant from the Department of Transport.
Hampshire County Council leader Roy Perry said: “The council, like all upper tier authorities across the country, is experiencing huge pressure on their budgets. "We appreciate the value of community transport services and have made representations to the Government to allow nominal charges for bus passes – as we know that some concessionary bus pass holders have said that they would rather pay something rather than lose their service. "It is important to note that the provision of concessionary fares for older people is a statutory responsibility, while subsidising community and public transport is not. "We will continue to support voluntary groups as far as we can."