Members of the council’s general purposes committee, who met on Monday, were concerned about taking on the role of subsidising a service previously supported by others but agreed it was important to get people out of cars and onto public transport.
The 262 Saturday service is run by volunteers from the North Wealden Community Transport Partnership.
It costs just under £10,000 to run each year and a percentage of contributions are made by councils in Framfield 7%, Heathfield 38% and Maresfield 14% as well as Uckfield 41%.
Money accrued from concessions are taken off costs for Uckfield and Maresfield councils because they had previously funded a shorter service between Uckfield and the Ashdown Forest.
So far in this financial year Uckfield has contributed around £500 towards the 262 service and expects to pay a further £1,500-£2,000 by the end of March 2018.
The community transport partnership has asked the council to contribute about £3,800 in 2018/19 though the final figure – once concessions are returned – could be in the region of £2,800 to £3,000.
Increase in take-up
The partnership says that the Saturday service has been running well and an increase in take-up has been noticed over the past few months with users travelling across the forest and to the towns of Uckfield and Heathfield.
A small number of people are also using the service to connect to other buses heading towards East Grinstead.
Cllr Diane Ward (Trust Independent Central ward) who chairs the town council’s general purposes committee said she would like to see the service advertised more to encourage families use it.
She also asked members how long the council should continue to fund the service.
Cllr Paul Meakin (Liberal Democrat Central ward) was concerned about the shouldering responsibilities of other authorities including the district and county councils and the government.
“My big concern is that we are increasingly being put upon by district and county and national government to fund more things traditionally funded elsewhere.
“My concern is that what was a one-off last year, we are paying for this year and next year.”
He added: “I would say don’t pay it. Look out for services in this town.”
But Cllr Paul Sparks (Liberal Democrat North ward) wanted to support the public transport system.
He told fellow councillors: “I think we have got to be a little bit careful here. We are talking about supporting public transport and getting people out of cars and on to buses and trains.”
He added they were not talking about “a huge amount of money” and this was a way of encouraging people to visit the Ashdown Forest by using public transport and providing the opportunity for them to use the extended public transport network too.
His recommendation that the council continue funding the 262 in 2018/19, was seconded by Cllr Ian Smith (Independent, Ridgewood ward), and accepted by committee members, along with the suggestion by Cllr Ward that ways of further promoting the service should be looked into.