At the Council meeting on Tuesday, it was finally revealed that the Loddon Bridge Park and Ride is to close on 4th February 2012, and there is no sign that it will be replaced until 2015 at the absolute earliest.
Cllr Jenny Lissaman (Liberal Democrat Councillor for Bulmershe and Whitegates ward) said: ‘The Conservatives have chosen to hide the closure of the Loddon Bridge Park and Ride from local residents by presenting it as a done deed in the budget. What is more shameful is that they were not planning to inform the public that the Park and Ride is to close on 4th February 2012 until August.
‘The way the Conservatives have run the park and ride has been a disaster. The figures show that usage is way down compared with last year, and that if prices went up this year it would be the most expensive park and ride in the country. That would push usage down even more.
‘The Lib Dems did warn the Conservatives that putting up prices and cutting bus frequency would reduce the number of users. Surprise, surprise, we were right!’
Woodley residents will see no increase in council tax from Woodley Town Council if members accept the Lib Dem recommendation to hold the household precept at the same level as last year at their Full Council meeting next week (8th Feb). Residents will have to wait until Wokingham Borough Council, Police and Fire Service decided on their financial plans before they know what the overall council tax for Woodley will be for next year.
Beth Rowland, Lib Dem leader of Woodley Town Council, said “The town council continues to be well managed and savings made during the year have allowed us to set a 0% increase in the household precept for next year and to maintain reserves at a prudent level”
Beth continued “This is a strong performance and I am particularly pleased by the performance of the Oakwood Centre which is developing in line with the business plan and will make its first operating profit in the financial year just ending. The Oakwood Centre has fast become the community hub that the Lib Dems envisaged with theatre groups, community groups, voluntary groups, café, neighbourhood police, and the town council itself all under one roof”
Phil Challis, Lib Dem deputy leader of Woodley Town Council said “The Town Council facilities provide real value for money for residents in such difficult financial times. Lib Dems believe in holding charges at affordable levels so that Woodley residents of all ages can continue to benefit from a wide range of opportunities to be active within our own community. So many councils have ripped the heart out of their communities by either closing and selling off facilities or setting charges so high that they are not affordable and they have then been left wondering why anti-social behaviour takes hold. All residents benefit from Woodley’s great sense of community whether they use the facilities directly themselves or not”
Wokingham Liberal Democrats are urging Wokingham Conservatives to carefully consider the impact on local communities before they make any cuts in funding to important bus routes in Woodley, Earley and more rural areas.
According to the Campaign for Better Transport, which has recently launched its ‘Save our Buses’ campaign, some councils intend to end all subsidised services. Stephen Joseph, the chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, has said that the cuts to bus services would hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest. He has further added: “Politicians must consider the social, economic and environmental consequences of failing to protect our bus services.”
Councillor Kay Gilder (Liberal Democrat Councillor for South Lake ward) said: “Liberal Democrats successfully campaigned to retain a limited bus service in Woodley and Earley when cuts were threatened in 2009. I would hate to think of the consequences if the controlling Conservative group on the borough council did decide to cut back funding in this year’s budget.”
Councillor Phil Challis (Liberal Democrat Councillor for Loddon ward) said: “Without council funding the important No 19 hospital route would be lost and Woodley Airfield would have no bus service at all for most of the day. The impact throughout the borough would be magnified, if as expected, the Conservatives further reduce the funding for travel tokens which vulnerable residents can use to pay for taxis if there are no buses.”
Councillor Prue Bray (leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Wokingham Borough Council) said: “We know that the budget will be tight this year. However retaining an acceptable bus service would be high on the Liberal Democrat priority list for social, economic and environmental reasons. The Conservatives appear to have different priorities. They have just agreed to spend millions of pounds on a road linking the railway station to the Reading Road near St Paul’s Church in Wokingham town. It would only take a fraction of that money to make sure residents across the whole borough had a decent bus service.”