A councillor has expressed doubts that the chronic shortage of bus drivers will end anytime soon, amid claims it’s just a temporary “blip”.

Liberal Democrat Colin Campbell, who represents the Otley and Yeadon ward, said it was “increasingly difficult” to persuade people to use public transport.

It follows yet more cutbacks to bus services across West Yorkshire, which have been blamed on an exodus of bus drivers from the profession, and difficulties replacing them.

The 781 service, which runs between Meanwood and Otley, and the 923 between Wetherby and Otley, were among those affected by changes last week. Both buses, which are run by the operator Connexions, have had their Saturday services pulled.

But speaking at a regional transport meeting on Friday, Dave Pearson, from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), suggested the shortage was a “short-term is-sue”.

He said that public money from the region’s adult education budget was being invested into the training of new drivers.

Mr Pearson, WYCA’s director of transport services, said: “We are trying to address the driver shortage problem, which should hopefully be a blip.

“We’ve been here before a little bit in previous years with regard to driver availability.

“As a Combined Authority we are doing quite a lot to support the bus companies and the HGV companies, as there’s a similar issue in that industry.

“The driver shortage is a culmination of lots of different factors and an ageing work-force is part of that.”

However, Mr Pearson admitted there was “concern” around services in rural areas like Otley and Yeadon, which he said “sit on the margin” and “can be at risk” of cuts.

There is also deep unease around the government’s plan to pull Covid support funding for the bus network this October, given the current predicament of services.

Councillor Campbell responded: “I fear there’s an element of wishful thinking in relation to the bus driver shortage.

“Because I seem to remember we had this conversation at the beginning of the year.”

Councillor Campbell added he was “not 100 per cent confident” the problem would be resolved by next spring.

However, a spokesman for the bus operator First, who was present at the meeting, told councillors the situation had improved and that pay levels had been raised to try to at-tract more staff.

He said: “The picture is much more stable now.

“We’re working very hard to increase staffing levels.”