After a meeting with First West of England bosses last night (August 18), North Somerset Liberal Democrat councillors are now demanding that proposed cuts to bus services across the district are scrapped.

Councillors met in private with First Bus chiefs after it emerged North Somerset Council and the bus operator agreed to continue running a reduced X5 service until April next year.

It comes after First Bus proposed scrapping the X2 (Yatton to Bristol), X5 (Weston to Bristol, serving Clevedon and Portishead) and the 126 Mendip Xplorer (Weston to Wells, serving Locking, Banwell, Sandford and Winscombe).

Cllr John Crockford-Hawley chaired the virtual meeting last night and said district councillors are 'horrified at this unilateral decision by First to withdraw services'.

He said: "Especially since here in North Somerset we have put so much effort and time into providing better facilities for passengers to use the network and will be working hard with government grants to further improve infrastructure."

The Lib Dem group launched a petition to save the X5 last week which attracted almost 1,000 signatures. Its petition to save the 126 has also reached more than 2,600 signatures.

Councillor for Blagdon and Churchill, Patrick Keating, said people who do not have access to private cars will now be now cut off from vital services.

He added: "The agreement to save some parts of the X5 route shows that it is possible to find ways to save some services.

"First Bus and North Somerset Council must now quickly work together to reach an agreement to save routes under threat in the villages, and particularly the 126 route connecting Wells to Weston through many of our villages."

Hitting back at the 'inaccurate' comments made by Weston's MP John Penrose - in an attack on the council for 'cutting bus services' - the deputy leader of the council, Cllr Mike Bell, said the MP would be 'better off lobbying government to get more support into local bus services'.

"In particular, the post-Covid recovery in public transport is still underway, with services still at only around 75 per cent of their previous levels," he said.

"As a result, there is a continuing need for bus support funding from the government to keep the industry on its feet.

"But far from helping, they are pulling the rug out from under bus operators in October. It is no coincidence that this is precisely when First plans to cut services."