A 90-year-old bus passenger has handed over a 38-page petition to the council in a bid to save a “lifeline” bus route being axed this week.

Her speech was met with applause across the council chamber.

Councillors have been urged to save a “lifeline” bus which is set to be axed this week — a move they were warned would leave people “isolated”.

Marion Harrington, 90, travelled from Westfield to Bath to urge Bath & North East Somerset Council to save the 82 bus, which runs between Paulton and Radstock.

She told their annual meeting on Thursday, 25th May: “The 82 bus service is a lifeline which has enabled us to go to the dentist, doctors, and post office, and to do our shopping. On behalf of all the passengers, please put the money into this 82 bus service so we can go on about our daily lives with pride and independence.”

Ms Harrington presented a petition with 38 pages of signatures to the council, and added that she had spoken to local MP Jacob Rees-Mogg who was “very concerned” about the planned axing of the bus and helped with the petition. She said: “We just need to keep that bus running, otherwise you will have more and more people with mental health problems because we will be isolated.”

Ms Harrington, who crochets blankets for care homes in her spare time, was recently given the Inspirational Citizen Award by Westfield Parish Council for her campaigning to save the 82.

She told councillors: “There’s been a lot of people relying on me tonight to get this message across.”

Her speech was met with applause across the council chamber, but council leader Kevin Guy told her it was the Metro Mayor, not the council, who were responsible for funding the bus. Ms Harrington said: “But he says it is your responsibility.”

The 82, along with the 768 and 179 which are also being withdrawn, are supported bus services, meaning they are not run by bus companies on a commercial basis and are instead publicly-funded.

The Liberal Democrat-run council insists that buses are the responsibility of Labour Metro Mayor Dan Norris, while Mr Norris says it is the council’s responsibility.

Bus driver Tom Churchill said they are “completely passing the buck.” 

Meanwhile, the 180 people who use the bus every day — including 20–30 children who rely on it to get to school — are caught in the middle of the funding squabble.

Mr Rees-Mogg said a large number of constituents had contacted him about it. He said: “It has proved to be a well-used route and its removal is a huge blow to the elderly, vulnerable and car-less, and even more unpalatable in light of Bath’s transport links being improved.

“I have made representations to both WECA and B&NES on behalf of constituents who have contacted me about the many bus route cuts in North East Somerset — including the No. 82 bus. I received responses from both the council and the Mayor, each effectively blaming the other for the cuts.

“Both the council and the combined authority need to stop trying to pass the buck between each other because this is not helping residents to resolve their transport woes, nor is it fulfilling their duties as transport providers.”

The Metro Mayor is the “transport authority” responsible for commissioning buses across the West of England but, with no power to raise taxes, he has relied on a transport levy paid by local councils to fund buses, which B&NES, with Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council, voted to cut in January.

They say that the Metro Mayor should use the £57.7m bus service improvement plan funding he was given by the government to pay for the buses, but Mr Norris says the money is only for “new and innovative” schemes and he is not allowed to use it to fund supported buses.

The government has appeared to suggest that they are now prepared to let the money be used more flexibly, however, and Mr Norris has said he would look at funding supported services 50/50 with local councils — although he warned that he believes the changes to the government rules would only kick in from July 1st.

Mr Guy wants the council to be given the BSIP money directly. He said: “If Dan Norris gives us the BSIP directly to B&NES, we’ll fund the 82 bus, instead of childish gimmicks like the birthday bus thing.”

But he also suggested he would accept the Metro Mayor’s offer of 50/50 funding, stating: “B&NES are already committing one million pounds to support buses. If he gives a million pounds – which is 50/50 – we’ll spend that money on the 82 and supported buses.”

Westfield councillor Eleanor Jackson also shared a five-point plan to look how the buses could be funded but said: “All this will take time so may I conclude by urging the leader of the council to find a bit of contingency money to keep the services running for another three months while we sort out alternative finance.”

Time is running out for the politicians to come to an agreement, with the 82 scheduled to be axed on Friday, 2nd June. 

Mr Churchill told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It’s a lifeline really for so many people. And it’s a disgrace really that they would even consider withdrawing it; it’s so important.”

The 768 and 179, which both run between Midsomer Norton and Bath, are scheduled to be withdrawn from Sunday, 4th June.

The Chew Valley’s 679 bus is scheduled to be withdrawn in July, and 15 other supported buses in Bath and North East Somerset have already been cut.

Amid reports that some drivers on axed routes were being made redundant, Mr Churchill said he was not, and would be able to drive a different bus with his company. But he insisted: “It’s not really the point. I have spent the last two years building up a reputation and a familiarity with passengers on that service and I want that to continue. I feel it’s an important route for the community. I have been doing it so long they are like friends as well as passengers. I know them all by name. I will be really sad if it goes.”

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “When the West of England Combined Authority was formed I predicted that it would spend a disproportionate amount upon Bristol and it is a pity that Bath and North East Somerset Council joined it.

“Buses are the responsibility of the Mayor and the Liberal Democrat run Council. Residents of North East Somerset have been left without their fair share yet millions have been spent upon the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, ring of steel around Bath — and the recent almost unbelievable reports that people living in Bristol and the surrounding area are to receive free bus travel during the month of their birthday is tantamount to a gimmick that serves the interests of the Mayor only. Vital services are being cut, which will leave rural residents stranded, many of whom may be elderly, immobile or vulnerable and rely solely on these buses.”

In a bizarre twist, despite the axing of the 82 being a crucial issue for Paulton, councillors at the meeting were not allowed to mention the village by name. The postponement of the election in Paulton until June 22nd means that “pre-election period” rules remain in place for that council ward.