Villagers will be hit by bus service cuts'

PUBLISHED: 11:32 09 March 2006 | UPDATED: 13:17 04 May 2010

The long-awaited return of the Royal Shakespeare Company to Littleport did not disappoint on Tuesday night, as the theatre group began its five-night run of The Canterbury Tales at the leisure centre. Five lorries rolled into the centre s car park on Mon

The long-awaited return of the Royal Shakespeare Company to Littleport did not disappoint on Tuesday night, as the theatre group began its five-night run of The Canterbury Tales at the leisure centre.

Five lorries rolled into the centre's car park on Monday, containing 50 tonnes of equipment, including a stage, seating - and the actors' washing machine.

By Tuesday, hours of preparation had transformed the sports hall into a fully-functioning theatre in time for the sold-out opening performance that evening.

The production, based on Geoffrey Chaucer's seminal middle English text, recounts the tales a group of pilgrims tell one another on their way to Canterbury.

The Canterbury Tales runs until Saturday but all performances are sold out.

# Edward Hughes and Lisa Ellis perform a scene from The Canterbury Tales.

Photo: RICHARD MARSHAM

ELY'S newly-elected county councillor, Simon Higginson, fears £253,000 in cuts to the county's bus services could hit rural passengers.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Higginson is worried the savings, threatening subsidised services, will leave villages cut off outside peak times.

The cuts were pushed through as part of Cambridgeshire County Council's budget despite the Liberal Democrats proposing alternative savings to rescue the bus services.

They had called for cuts to office spending rather than reductions in front line services.

The move comes as the Government pushes through a plan to offer free bus travel for the over 60s by April. But the county council fears it will not work across district boundaries.

Cllr Higginson, who represents Ely South and West, said: "I was elected only last month on the promise to fight for bus services in Ely, and this is exactly what I intend to do.

"We were told preference would be given to rural services over urban ones but some are city-to-city services which pass through the villages. This could affect youngsters wanting to go out for the evening.

"We put forward a strong budget proposal that would have saved bus services in Cambridgeshire from these cuts, and I was bitterly disappointed that our proposals were ignored."

The county council is holding talks with the bus operators as it plans to cut its £2.5million spending on services by about 10 per cent.

The county operates a three-year rolling programme of contracts with operators but some coming up for renewal have increased by up to 70 per cent. One company claims its costs have risen from £31,000 to £141,000.

County Council lead portfolio holder for environment and community, Cllr John Reynolds, said: "We have got to look at making reductions, what impact they will have on services and how we can make more use of the network.

"We are conscious that we do not want to leave any particular community isolated.

"We need to see whether any of these services can be totally funded by the bus operators."

He added that the Government had done a "botched job" on trying to introduce free travel for the over 60s and said it would have to be revisited by the Government over the next year.

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