Cambs bus subsidy challenge heads for court

THE decision to scrap public bus subsidies across Cambridgeshire looks set to land the county council in court.

The public transport pressure group, the Campaign for Better Transport – formerly known as Transport 2000 – is backing a Milton mother’s demand that the county council change its mind on abandoning �2.7million-a-year bus subsidies or justify itself in the High Court.

Jo Green, 42, has instructed London solicitors Leigh Day and Co to challenge the Budget decision made by the full county council on February 15 this year. Any legal challenge must be started within three months of the decision, which effectively means by Friday of this week.

The county council has now responded to the solicitors’ extensive ‘letter before action’, which described what they say amount to breaches by the authorities of various Acts, particularly the Transport Act 1985, under which bus services were privatised, and equality legislation.

The lawyers say they would not issue proceedings if the county council ceases to implement the subsidy cuts [the next round of which is expected in late summer] and consider the whole thing again from scratch.

Otherwise, they will seek the High Court’s permission for judicial review of the lawfulness of the decision.

The council has told them that it will resist the action..

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CBT said a number of county councils planning subsidy withdrawals had responded positively to the pressure group’s Save our Buses campaign earlier this year, with which Ms Green had been involved.

“Unfortunately, Cambridgeshire was not one of them,” said a spokesman.

At the time the cuts were announced last year – not just to bus subsidies but across a wide range of the council’s activities – senior councillors told The Hunts Post that its legal advice was that it could safely ignore what were supposed to have been statutory responsibilities because the legislation was so loosely drafted as to be meaningless.

Yesterday (Tuesday) a council spokesman said: “Unlike some authorities who have simply reduced services, we are looking at revolutionising how local transport is delivered, which has real potential to create enterprise, employment and boost community transport.

“We have received the pre-action letter and will be defending the claim. As legal proceedings are ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment fully. However, we have taken legal advice and have carried out consultations and will continue to fully engage with communities.”

If proceedings are issued later this week, it will be for the High Court to determine when the case will be heard.