PlusBus will stop in Islington in June

A SPECIAL bus for the elderly and disabled will be scrapped, it has been confirmed.

The number 812 bus, also known as the PlusBus, will stop running in June after Islington Council axed its funding – and failed in a bid to get Transport for London to pick up the �140,000 tab instead.

It will mean elderly and disabled residents who rely on the bus to get around – including dozens of users of the Peel Centre day centre, in Percy Circus, King’s Cross – could be left stranded at home.

John Hayes, manager of the Peel Centre, which recently staged a protest calling on the council to change its mind, said: “I don’t know how our users are going to be able to get about. They are all very angry and upset, particularly because nobody from the council has told them anything. It’s going to be a huge blow.”

The Peel Centre runs its own minibuses for people with greater mobility needs – but Mr Hayes said it has no money to increase the service.

The PlusBus is a “hail-and-ride” service that people can flag down anywhere in the street without having to walk to a bus stop, while the drivers help passengers on and off. It covers the south of the borough, taking in many streets not served by other buses.

Until now, Islington Council paid �140,000 a year towards its �210,000 cost, with the operator, social enterprise Hackney Community Transport, paying the rest.

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After cutting the grant, council chiefs asked TfL to fund the route out of a �2.5million pot of money set aside for transport services in Islington, but it turned down their request saying it was not “value for money”. They then called on Mayor of London Boris Johnson to step in and force TfL into a U-turn – but it was announced last week that he had refused.

Councillor Paul Smith, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, said: “If central government’s deep cuts were not enough, now TFL’s refusal to allow us to use our discretionary fund on PlusBus is a further slap in the face for older travellers in Islington.

“Everyone here feels deeply for PlusBus users but we’re already having to make �52m of budget savings this year so we can’t fund the service with taxpayers’ money.”

But Councillor Terry Stacey, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, said the council’s Labour leaders are trying to pass the buck – and are themselves the ones to blame. He said: “Islington Labour councillors have more front than Brighton Pier! It is their decision to axe council funding for the PlusBus that has caused this nightmare for thousands of Islington elderly and disabled residents. Their pathetic attempt to blame the Mayor should fool nobody.”

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