EAST Dorset residents faced with losing key bus services have started a petition and are urging Dorset councillors to change their minds.

Various bus services in the Wimborne and Colehill areas will change or be lost completely from April 1 as the council aims to save £850,000 from the £2.8m it spends on its bus subsidy.

But affected residents have vowed to carry on campaigning for a council U-turn and are trying to get 1,000 signatures by the end of the week to force a new debate on the issue.

A petition is online at change.org and hard copies are in Colehill library, the Night Jar, St Michael’s Church hall, Colehill Co-op, the One Stop at Canford Bottom, the Barrington Centre and the Tivoli.

Colehill resident Paul Oliver, who started the petition, said: “The comments on the online petition show the major effect this will have on all sorts of people – including students who rely on buses to get in and out of Bournemouth and older people who use the bus to travel from one end of Colehill to another.

“There are many residents who will find themselves unable to make late doctor and dentist appointments or take in a show at the Pavilion in Bournemouth or the Tivoli in Wimborne or the Ferndown Barrington.

“I don’t want to see Wimborne die in the evenings, but I fear that’s what will happen.

“It seems like the council is only looking at the numbers and has not thought about the repercussions. I would urge anyone concerned to sign the petition now, then we can hopefully have a proper consultation on this issue.”

Councillor Janet Dover, county councillor for the Colehill and Stapehill division, has fiercely objected to the cutting of the services. She said: “I am absolutely dismayed about the loss of these services.

“It’s wonderful to hear that the petition is doing so well.”

Cllr Hilary Cox, Dorset County Council’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “Dorset County Council has continued to subsidise locally-needed buses with £2m of the Dorset taxpayers’ money.

“We have ensured that no village that was previously served by a bus has been left without a service entirely. We have also put aside funding to help communities with setting up volunteer schemes.

“In times when we are operating tight budgets it is unfortunate but necessary to implement these reductions in service.”