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Newspaper Columns

Times of Tonbridge Column - 20 June 2018 - KCC's Big Conversation

Many readers will remember just a few months ago there was a proposal from Kent County Council (KCC) to make cuts by slashing funding to a number of bus routes in and around Tonbridge. While many of the proposed funding changes addressed rural routes, our town was not left out.

After some pretty vocal campaigns, many of us were pleased that the County Council chose to think again. Our bus services are a lifeline for many people in the community. Whether you rely on it to get to school, use it to travel to the doctor or from neighbouring towns, it isn’t just the only connection between our town and some of the most the beautiful villages that surround us, it’s a lifeline for many and matters to all.

I understand that KCC has funding issues, and needs to find innovative solutions to this. I know they have done a great deal so far and still have more to do. But, with our council tax rising for a number of years now, it is only right that we expect the quality of core services to increase and the county council to look after the needs of us all.

In Richard Long and Michael Payne we are lucky to have two committed and dedicated advocates of Tonbridge at County Hall in Maidstone. They have argued our case strongly and I’m privileged to know and work closely with them. They fight the corner of the town effectively and will continue to do so in the future.

That’s what I hope they, and all other county councillors will do as KCC launched their ‘Big Conversation’ about the future of bus services locally. Until 8 August 2018 a new consultation is running aiming to maintain and improve rural accessibility for those without alternative means of travel. This is our opportunity to make our views heard.

It is also the time to be specific. We need to identify the services, particularly those which are publically funded, which we need to continue. Connectivity between Tonbridge and neighbouring villages is important for the vibrancy and prosperity of the town and we need this to continue. Losing services would harm this.

That’s why I’d encourage everyone to respond before 8 August. You can do so by visiting www.kent.gov.uk/bigconversation. There are also a series of public meetings being held, and the closest one to us is at Borough Green Village Hall on 5 July.

But this isn’t just about today. The future of transport in Tonbridge is at stake at the moment. As Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council develops its Local Plan it will need to do so mindful of where public transport serves. It can’t plan for the future without our vital bus routes remaining. That’s why I hope everyone looks closely at this consultation and makes KCC aware of the bus routes which matter to you.

Georgie Welford