Apr 20 2012 by Johnathon Menzies, Stirling Observer Friday
A BUS link between the eastern villages and Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert received a temporary stay of execution after funding was approved recently.
Stirling Council’s interim executive committee met on Thursday last week and approved a move to subsidise the 56 service until near the end of June.
A portion of £5 million the council expects to receive from the sale of the city centre Burghmuir site to Waitrose was to be used to fund a six-week extension of the bus.
But delays in the transaction being completed mean that the local authority has had to delve into its reserves to bridge the gap, to the tune of £2640.
Political opponents to Stirling Council’s recently-approved budget, proposed by the area’s Labour group and seconded by Conservatives, have criticised the fact that the expected cash was factored into the local authority’s plans before it has been received.
Current 56 service bus operators, First East Scotland, are set to scrap the service on May 12 and the six-week interim period, from May 14 until June 23, is to allow the buses to continue running while transport chiefs discuss alternatives.
Following the meeting, Bannockburn Ward Labour duo Violet Weir and Margaret Brisley said they were pleased the motion they jointly tabled was passed.
Councillor Weir said: “This is great news for Bannockburn and the eastern villages. There has been much hype over the last few weeks over this issue and it has caused real concern in the communities.
Councillor Brisley added: “Thank goodness the issue was not used as a political football in the meeting. The needs of the community came first, as should be the case.
“There has been negative comments made by the SNP but this just sour grapes because they did not propose such a motion and can only rant about us because we did.”
SNP member Alasdair MacPherson declared: “I’m delighted this has got the go ahead, but it is a pity it is still months away from starting.
“No doubt Labour will try to claim the credit for this, however, Cowie residents will not be fooled – they know that the joint Labour-Tory budget has delayed the commencement of the new bus service to the hospital for several months.”
Stirling East Lib Dem councillor Ian Brown said last Thursday’s debate sparked concerns for the existing C48 service – which links Wallace Park in Broomridge to the hospital.
He said he understood it could be re-routed to compensate for the impact the potential loss of the 56 may have on the eastern villages.
Mr Brown said: “The motion by Councillors Brisley and Weir was to maintain the 56 bus service to parts of Bannockburn but I have discovered that Councillor Brisley has been plotting to re-route the C48 Bus which is relied on by residents in Wallace Park as the only link to the hospital.
“In fact, only recently Broomridge Community Council was consulted by Stirling Council and expressed a strong wish for the C48 to continue from Stirling Hospital to the new Forth Valley Royal.
“I have been campaigning to enhance the bus service for Wallace Park and I will not stand by and allow this cynical action to go unchallenged.
“The recent budget allowed for continuation of the service for Bannockburn, not for a reduction in the C48 service.”
Papers discussed at the meeting state that the council is legally unable to subsidise the bus service in the long term due to restrictions placed on local authorities when it comes to partially bankrolling commercial services.
“It is currently estimated that the Burghmuir receipt will be paid to the council in late May, 2012, which is slightly later that the start date of the extension period,” officers concluded.