PROPOSED cuts to bus services across Shropshire will hit the elderly and isolated and will “divide communities” , an Oswestry councillor has claimed.

Shropshire Council is currently holding a consultation into proposed changes to bus services into the county that could see some routes axed and fares increased in others.

The Shropshire Green Party has hit out at the proposals, saying it will also result in more car journeys.

Councillor Olly Rose, of Oswestry Town Council, said people will struggle to go about their daily life if the changes are brought in.

She said: “We are creating a Catch-22 situation where cutting bus routes (Shropshire comes out the third worst hit area in the country according to reports) makes bus travel less convenient and so encourages car use increasing pollution and carbon emissions.

“In my work I meet many elderly people who are now, through less bus availability, struggling to access their communities to shop or even attend doctors.

“Some continue to drive when they would rather not as they are otherwise stranded somewhere all day due to bus in frequency.

“Social isolation is already a problem and this will make it worse. It is right that we subsidise journeys so that those who are unable to or choose not to, can stay part of our communities.”

Councillor Julian Dean, Shropshire Council member for Porthill, added: “Public transport cuts divide communities and even households, between those who can get around in cars and those who can hardly get around.

“Meanwhile the cars are clogging up our streets and damaging our world. These proposed cuts should be withdrawn.”

Shropshire Council launched the consultation last week asking for public opinion on changes to bus services across the county. The consultation will run until May 6.

As well as fares increasing on the Park and Ride service in Shrewsbury, a number of services will have their timetables changed and several will be withdrawn.

The service cuts have been put forward to save more than £405,000 per year.

Councillors in the south of the county have called for a rethink and have said that any changes to the 701 route in Ludlow would affect vulnerable people and those on a low income.

The Mayor of Ellesmere, Cllr Ryan Hartley said: “With regards to the town bus service in Ellesmere we are disappointed to hear there is to be a reduction in the service. However this still leaves us with a good number of runs and in the present financial climate it is good to have a fairly comprehensive service.”

A director at Ellesmere based Lakeside Coaches, Gareth Davies, said: “Across the country local government is forced to make cuts to it’s public transport provision to help balance the books, it is felt particularly in counties such as Shropshire due to it’s rurality and towns such as Oswestry, Ellesmere, Wem and Whitchurch who have large retired populations, who depend on our services.

“We are working with Shropshire Council on their contracted routes which we operate to minimise the impact these cuts will have on the local community as we are aware that they are trying their very best.

“Our Ellesmere to Oswestry 449 Service which operates Monday to Saturday is a fully commercial service though, which means that whilst the local authority are pleased support this, financially as a company we receive no subsidy and routes such as this can only be maintained if the public use this, which I am pleased to say is the case.”

Simon Mathieson, area managing director for Arriva Midlands North, who operate bus services in Oswestry, said: “Arriva Midlands has been working with Shropshire Council to identify potential savings as a result of the budget cuts that the Council needs to make.

“We recognise that buses are extremely important to those people across the county who use them and we sincerely hope that the people of Shropshire will be compelled to have their say in the consultation.”