The fight to save Huddersfield’s free town centre bus is well under way.
And ideas which could help include a social enterprise, encouraging businesses to chip in and a donation box.
Golcar Liberal Democrat councillor Christine Iredale said concerns from residents had filled her mailbag and email inbox and she’s encouraging people to come forward with ideas to save the bus from the axe as Kirklees Council looks to make savings of £69m a year.
It costs Kirklees £196,000 a year and the council gives the money to Metro to tender for the services in Huddersfield and Dewsbury.
Clr Iredale said: “This isn’t an issue for just one ward or constituency.
“I’m pleased Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman is acting, I hope Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney will and I hope we can find a way to save it.
“It gives people independence. One of the biggest issues for older people is social isolation.
“To take the bus away will make people feel more socially isolated as if they can’t get around as easily they may not go into the town centre.
“We need ideas. Could the bus take in Sainsbury’s and they chip in? Could Kingsgate and town centre traders contribute something?
“People have told me they’d pay 20p or 50p a time to use it. I think by law we cannot ask pensioners to pay but I’m sure many would contribute to a donation box and add a bit more to fund it.
“If you look at the town centre in the day there are a lot of older people. Being able to get about easily is really vital for them and the traders too.”
The free town bus was introduced in Huddersfield in 2006 and last year the route was extended to include Kirklees College. The Dewsbury bus has run since in 2009 with a contribution from Sainsbury’s.
Kirklees says a donation of 50p per person may see bus patronage drop, and if it dropped by half it would generate just £23,000 revenue a year – leaving a massive shortfall and still needing subsidy.
Mr Sheerman has chaired a meeting aimed at finding a way to save the service. Representatives of 20 local businesses and community organisations were in attendance along with officers from Kirklees Council and Metro.
They agreed to work on a new business plan that could involve the Huddersfield bus being run as a social or community enterprise, with local people and businesses as shareholders, plus larger retailers making a contribution.
Mr Sheerman said “It was a really positive meeting, and there’s strong agreement on the need to keep a sustainable free town bus service.
“I know my constituents support this and I’ll continue to work on this.”
Hundreds of people have now signed in support of the petition to retain the service. To sign go to www.barrysheerman.co.uk/index.php/bus