Night bus is spared axe after council funding is secured

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A COMMUNITY bus which is a ‘haven of support’ for late night revellers in Bury St Edmunds, has been saved from the axe.

The Western Suffolk SOS bus - operating in St Andrew’s Street South on a Friday night - faced the chop after bosses faced a black hole in funding.

However, they have since secured enough money from St Edmundsbury borough, Forest Heath district and Suffolk county councils to continue it in the ‘short term’.

They are now considering their long term funding strategy to ensure a future for the vehicle, which costs £50,000 a year to run.

The bus, which has been in Bury for a year and is based in Newmarket on a Saturday night, has contributed to reductions in violent crime, ambulance call outs and emergency admissions to A&E.

The vital funding was secured after Newmarket Community Partnership, who run the bus, approached the West Suffolk SOS steering group, which is made up of representatives from the councils and other interested parties.

Simon Waldron, chairman of the partnership, said: “They’ve gone around their various funding pots and managed to scrape together bits and pieces. We’re very grateful for the amount of support which has been shown.

“The theme of community safety is a major one that nobody wants to see fall short.

“We’re okay for the short term but we need up our long term strategy and go to the usual funders such as Government departments and agencies to cover the basic running costs.

“For the additional running costs we will be looking for support from local businesses.”

“We’re trying to set up a new funding strategy which will make it sustainable for future years.”

When asked how important the service is for securing the safety of late night drinkers, Mr Waldron said: “The bus has become a recognised haven.

“In the past when someone perhaps fell over and had an accident the police would have had no option but to call an ambulance.

“Now people can be taken to the bus, checked over by St John Ambulance and sent home.

“It’s saving work for the police and ambulance service.

“For people who have had too much to drink it provides somewhere to sit down for a time.”

He added that the bus acts as a ‘useful meeting point’ and ‘mutual ground’ for the police to talk to people.

Anyone who may be able to support the Western Suffolk SOS bus should contact Mr Waldron on (01638) 713778.