CUTS to bus subsidies in Dorset have been too deep – according to the chairman of a local transport group.

Bob Driscoll says that the statement was made to him, in confidence, by an un-named senior Dorset councillor.

He told the Dorset Council place scrutiny committee on Wednesday that the councillor admitted to him that although there had been financial savings of well over a million pounds there had been a social cost with more people, especially in rural areas, finding themselves isolated.

Mr Driscoll, who chairs the West Dorset Western Area Transport Action Group, told councillors that many routes, even popular ones, were now teetering on the edge of survival.

He said he hoped that the group, and others like it, would be treated better than they had been by the previous councils where he said members were “side-lined and treated as an irritant.”

Mr Driscoll spoke of a trip with a councillors on the 42 service between Broadwindsor and Bridport where the then leader of the authority had been surprised to see the bus almost full, but had noted that everyone had a bus pass and did not pay.

“This has been a bone of contention for many years and needs to be addressed at government level” he said.

He told councillors that a good public transport system was not only good for the vitality of a local community but would play its part in reducing pollution and congestion.

“Public transport will never pay, in the traditional sense, but we should think about it (subsidy) as an investment,” he said.

And he reminded councillors that consistency had a part to play. He said that the Bridport to Yeovil service had been changed several times since 2017 resulting in connections with other services being missed and travellers losing confidence in the route, with a knock-one effect of fewer people using it.

Cllr Roland Tarr backed calls for the committee to carry out its own review into bus services but said that other issues also needed to be considered. He said that in Dorchester many drivers parked for free every day in residential streets – but if they were forced to pay for parking they might consider public transport a viable alternative, reducing pollution.

The committee agreed to the setting up of a working group to look at issues around bus services and the viability of routes.