Campaigners say a free shuttle bus for Bradford city centre should be the first meaningful outcome of new Government plans to give every neighbourhood its own kitty.

Drastic measures to enhance community involvement in council spending, announced by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears yesterday, should start with Bradford Council listening to people's desire to see the Metro FreeCityBus introduced in Bradford, according to Bradford Older People's Alliance.

John Mawdesley, transport representative for the Alliance, said he was "distressed" to hear earlier this week that Bradford Council looked set to reject a free six-month pilot scheme for the bus service.

Council bosses believe they should wait until the city's regeneration is further down the line before they test the FreeCityBus scheme, which already operates in Leeds, Huddersfield and Wakefield.

But Mr Mawdesley said the Government's move to give residents a bigger say in their area would re-ignite the bus issue.

He said: "The council's view is not necessarily the view of residents, like in the case of the free city bus.

"People are crying out for this service but the Council is ready to reject it. This would be an ideal time to apply the new Government plans to give people a greater say in spending."

Mr Mawdesley said more people would turn their backs on Bradford and shop elsewhere if a free shuttle bus was not provided.

He said: "Our members include 50 or 60 older people's groups and the people we meet with are now saying they can't face the hills in Bradford any more and the poor shops.

"Their view is that the lack of regeneration work in the city centre, particularly at Broadway, is exactly why we need a bus now. People are having to get to the top of the city to get to the existing shops and that's a nightmare for older people or people with push chairs."

Mr Mawdesley said older shoppers were being enticed to Huddersfield, Keighley, Leeds and Halifax by more convenient bus drop-off points and the flatter landscape. He said: "The more people that go to these outlying places, the more they will become set in a routine when they find their favourite shops. It's distressing. We really want to keep them in Bradford.

"We think we really need this bus service now and I am really disappointed the council will not proceed at this stage. The issue has been a hot potato among older people.

"The free buses in Wakefield, Huddersfield and Leeds have been a huge success."

Other pensioner groups have already registered their protests. Jean Walker, of Bradford and District Senior Power, said the service was a real life-line for the elderly.

"We need it now," she said. "Why should Bradford always be a step behind?"

And Audrey Raistrick, of Neighbourly Care Bradford, said: "Why shouldn't pensioners be assisted in getting around the city centre? It should be implemented immediately."

A report to Bradford Council's next executive meeting, which takes place on Tuesday, recommends holding off staging a free six-month trial for the moment and that the issue be reviewed annually.

e-mail: will.kilner

  • Power to the people