A TOP-LEVEL meeting has taken place with a Government Minister to discuss Cheshire's bus budget crisis.
County council environment executive member Andrew Needham travelled to London for talks with Under Secretary of State for Transport Tony McNulty.
And after the meeting, the Minister agreed to have further discussions with the group in the autumn.
The meeting was arranged by Macclesfield MP Sir Nicholas Winterton after he raised the issue during Question Time in the House of Commons.
When the Minister invited him to discuss the topic further, Sir Nicholas asked county Cllr Needham and county transport co-ordinator Garth Goddard to attend.
The talks centred on problems facing counties such as Cheshire, which has limited opportunities for commercial bus operators, unlike Liverpool and Manchester which have much larger passenger numbers.
And as the commercial bus network grows smaller, the county council is left to support routes which have been dropped from commercial timetables.
At the same time increasing costs result in the county facing spiralling prices to run its supported bus network.
Due to these pressures, Cheshire has decided to withdraw 19 supported bus services and revise 18 others - including some in Ellesmere Port - in a move which still leaves a projected overspend of more than £500,000 for the current year.
Cllr Needham asked the Minister for increased funding from central government to help solve the crisis.
He said after the meeting: 'This has been a very worthwhile opportunity to discuss our public transport problems with the Minister.
'Given the need for careful control of the rate of growth of Council Tax, the county is just not able to maintain its supported network in these circumstances.
'I am pleased to say the Minister appeared to take our problems very seriously and said his Department would be pursuing the matters raised.
'To take the issue forward and discuss progress he has invited us to meet him again in the autumn.'
Mr Goddard pointed out during the meeting that there was no quick or easy solution to the problem.
He added that short-term additional funding would help to reduce the scale of any further service cuts.