Council puts brakes on axing of subsidy

The county council has put the brakes on plans to cut a bus service linking north Northumberland and Newcastle in order to carry out a review.

The 710 service from Kelso to Newcastle and the Metrocentre on Saturdays, which is subsidised by the county council, was set to be axed.

However, the decision was met with uproar from residents and parish councillors from various towns and villages on the route.

But now the council, which is ‘conscious of the strong and very well-expressed views of everyone who has been in touch’, has halted the withdrawal in order to review the service.

A meeting is to be arranged between council officers and residents so that their views can be taken into account.

The service runs twice a week although the subsidy applies only on a Saturday.

It is run by Wooler-based company Glen Valley Tours and when the village’s parish council found out about the axing, proposed to start from Easter, parish council chairman Alfreda Hindmarsh predicted there would be strong objections from the community.

The route also takes in Milfield, Glanton, Powburn, Whittingham, Longframlington, Longhorsley and Morpeth among others.

At their December meeting, members received a letter from the county council’s community transport manager Jan Chisholm saying the subsidy would be withdrawn because it did not meet the requirements for aid as it was ‘primarily used for non-essential shopping trips’.

But the councillors claimed that people in the Glendale area were facing increasing isolation.

A statement from the county council last Friday read: “Northumberland County Council is to carry out a review into the decision to withdraw the 710 Kelso to Newcastle Saturday bus service.

“Any decision about the future of the service will be postponed to allow council officers to hold a meeting with residents so their views can be taken into account. This review will include all the comments the county council has received up to now.

“The council is very conscious of the strong and very well-expressed views of everyone who has been in touch asking for the withdrawal to be reconsidered.

“Therefore residents along the route, county and parish councillors are being contacted with information about a meeting to be held locally in the near future to discuss the bus service.

“The date and time of the meeting will be announced shortly. Transport will be provided for those who need it.

“In the meantime, the service will continue running exactly as at present.”

A petition to save the service has also been launched. The agenda for next Monday’s meeting of the north area committee explains that a report will be prepared for a future meeting.