Barra and Uist will be hit by community bus cuts

​There is alarm in Barra and Uist over a funding cut to community transport which will seriously impact on the operation of Bus Bharraigh and Tagsa Uibhist who provide vital transport links within the island.
The Bus Bharraigh service will be particularly badly hitThe Bus Bharraigh service will be particularly badly hit
The Bus Bharraigh service will be particularly badly hit

Meetings have continued to be held over the past week and the chair of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s transportation committee, Uisdean Robertson, said on Wednesday: “Obviously we are sympathetic and our officers have been asked to look at non-statutory funding options, so we hope something can be done”.

Councillor Robertson pointed out that funding the inter-island air service between Benbecula and Stornoway is also a “non-statutory” and that they had managed to find funding to maintain it from within the council’s own resources.

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Other community-operated bus services within the Western Isles will be affected to lesser degree by a 55 per cent cut within the Comhairle budget. However, the Barra and Uist operations were the biggest beneficiaries and have taken the largest hits.

In a letter to Voluntary Action Barra and Vatersay who own and operate the Bus Bharraigh vehicles, a Comhairle official wrote: “The Community Transport budget has been under review as part of a number of savings the Comhairle are looking to achieve from non-statutory services.

“Following confirmation at full Council, the budget for Community Transport has been reduced from £182,000 to £73,354.35.” The motion confirming the funding cut was carried by 18 votes to eight

The chief Officer for Voluntary Action Barra and Vatersay, Eoin MacNeil said: “In real terms this means that the council will only allocate the Bus Bharraigh service £20k to support our islands’ community transport needs.

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“This will have a direct and immediate effect on the level of service provision we will be able to offer. Our community transport service also employs around seven local people who rely on this employment.

“Bus Bharraigh offers a door to door service to meet a range of client needs including transport to Garadh a’ Bhàgh a’ Tuath, Cobhair Bharraigh Adult services and provision for youth club and café when requested. It also provides pensioner clubs and shopping and access to the weekly men’s club. It has five wheelchair accessible vehicles.”

Tagsa Uibhist is a well established local organisation which supports people with a needs as well as carers through a range of services, from care at home to community transport and community gardens. Bus transport is a key element within the services.

Their vehicles “cover thousands of miles supporting people to attend medical appointments, go shopping, go to social events and to collect medication. This is a vital service that hundreds of vulnerable people in Uist have relied upon over the years.”

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Tagsa Uibhist say: “With cuts to funding being announced recently, Tagsa will be fighting to keep this service fully funded and will be lobbying the Comhairle and councillors to keep this essential service going”.

It is expected that the issue will be raised again at the next series of Comhairle meetings later this month.