Public Question Time
The Council was addressed by representatives of Crewkerne Town Council who also handed a petition of 466 signatures of local residents supporting the transfer of Severalls war memorial gardens as well as the war memorial itself. They said the grounds were gifted for the benefit of the town and management and ownership should be returned to the Town Council ahead of the Unitary Council status the following year. They were currently cared for by volunteers and this would continue with support from the Town Council if needed.
The petition was handed to the Chairman of Council who thanked the Town Council representatives and acknowledged their supporting comments. He said the Council’s property team would liaise with the Town Clerk to progress the issue.
The Council were then addressed by a representative of the South West Transport Network who asked a number of questions about public transport in Yeovil and South Somerset. He referred to bus service cuts by First Group in Yeovil and a service from Yeovil to Taunton which had seriously affected some residents ability to travel to work. He urged the Council to call a meeting with the Town Council and First Group management to explain the towns bus services and look at ways to restore the links. He referred to the loss of the Department of Transport’s Local Transport Fund in October 2022 which could result in further bus service cuts in the area. He also noted that a number of bus shelters did not appear to be being maintained in Yeovil and asked that this be investigated.
The Portfolio Holder for Protecting Core Services noted that bus services were not the responsibility of the district council and it had not been notified in advance of the proposed bus changes but they would meet with the County Council to seek clarity on how the issue could be resolved. He said they were aware that the County Council’s Operations Team were extending alternative provisions to try and improve the current transport situation in Yeovil. He noted that the County Council were in discussions with First Group and in a public meeting the previous week First Group had committed to reviewing the service with an aim of making improvements. He concluded that the allocation of Bus Service Improvement Plan funding from Government was significantly less than the amount the County Council initially requested and this may have an adverse effect on service provisions. He also advised that South Somerset District Council had offered to support all local bus operators with their recruitment challenges through local employment hubs and forthcoming recruitment events.
Councillor Mike Hewitson, as the associate lead for transport at SCC, advised that he had met with a member of the bus user group the previous day and appreciated the impact of the bus service cuts on the local community. He said they were hoping to produce an action plan and he noted the imminent withdrawal of the bus support grant which was critical to providing bus services and there would be lobbying for it to be retained.