DOZENS of bus routes could be axed after Cornwall Council told operators it is slashing subsidies paid to keep buses running – and even backdating the cuts.
Western Greyhound said reducing bus subsidies would be "catastrophic" for Cornwall and it had launched an immediate review of which routes could be affected.
The council pays bus operators so they can offer free bus passes to pensioners and disabled passengers.
Funding for the concessionary fares scheme is provided by the Government, but the council claimed this has been cut and so it has had to rethink its own payments.
However, after the issue was highlighted last week, Cabinet member for transport, Graeme Hicks, said that he had stopped work on altering the payments so that a full review could be carried out.
Western Greyhound managing director Mark Howarth had warned that the cuts could mean routes being axed. He said: "There has been no economic impact assessment carried out to consider the impact this will have.
"It will be catastrophic for Cornwall. Some areas will find that their bus services will go completely. Some of the smaller operators might even go out of business.
"There has been no thought at all about what the impact of this will be.
"People who rely on the bus to get to work, to go to school or college, for shopping or hospital appointments – all those essential journeys will be lost."
The letter, seen by the Cornish Guardian, blamed the changes on public spending cuts. Signed by David Edwards, group leader for passenger transport at County Hall, it ends: "The council regrets it has to make changes to the reimbursement model but faced with a much reduced budget must respond to the current national financial circumstances." Cornwall Council Lib Dem deputy group leader Alex Folkes said: "You can't run a business where one of your main sources of income says we are going to cut your rate by 40 per cent. It is stupid and shortsighted.
"We all understand that Cornwall Council need to make cuts and savings but to do so in this way is gobsmacking.
"They don't even have the courtesy to sit down and talk with their providers to work out a way of making those savings without affecting the people of Cornwall.
"There are some very rural communities and poorer people in those communities who will suffer because of this. They will lose their jobs and lose contact with their families and friends."
North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson said: "It is absolutely disgraceful that Cornwall Council have made this threat after setting their budget at the beginning of the financial year. This will have a seriously detrimental effect."