SWINDON Council will not hold a debate tomorrow over a decision to end a bus service between Park South and the Great Western Hospital – because it is thought part of a petition with almost 800 signatures was lost.

In January, Thamesdown Transport amended the number 18 route, which ran between Fleming Way and the hospital, so it stopped at Park South.

It meant residents there did not have a dedicated bus route to GWH.

The bus company said low passenger numbers meant the route was not commercially viable, but elderly and sick residents said they would have to walk further to pick up the recommended alternative, the service 16, at New College.

The Parks and East Walcot Forum says that it gathered more than the 750 signatures in a petition of opposition needed under the council’s rules to trigger a debate at a full council, on an issue affecting two or three wards.

However, Derique Montaut (Labour, Liden, Eldene and Park South), who helped to gather some names and handed in the document to council leader Rod Bluh in September, says it seems some of the sheets got lost either before or after it was handed in, meaning officers counted just over 600.

Even without a petition, he could have tabled a motion to have the subject debated.

However, he says he missed the deadline as he felt certain there were enough names and now he is asking the council to find another way for the discussion to go ahead.

Coun Montaut said the council could use funding for bus services in other parts of Swindon to reinstate the service and he felt the debate was a key method to raise awareness and gain support.

“I think the figure when we counted it was 760,” he said.

“Whether they got lost at this end or the council’s end I don’t know. That’s what we reported, that’s what we genuinely thought.

“We were anticipating a debate and I was taken by surprise by it.

“But we aren’t accusing the council of any gerrymandering on it. It’s just unfortunate.

“I think because it hasn’t met the criteria they’re going to impose that position and say the rules are rules and that’s how it’s going to be.

“But if they’re prepared to have a discussion and an open debate on it I would welcome that opportunity.”

Martin Wicks, the chairman of the Parks and East Walcot Forum, said the debate should go ahead to show that councillors take local democracy seriously.

“It was handed in by Derique so I can’t say what happened,” he said.

“It was my understanding there were 800 names, but I know sometimes the council can take a bureaucratic point of view. The issue really is whether the bus service is run fully commercially or whether there are social and environmental considerations.”

Coun Keith Williams, cabinet member for leisure and strategic transport, who met concerned bus users last week to discuss network changes, said if there was enough public support, he was quite happy for full council to debate the issue.

He said that the next opportunity for that would probably be when the bus strategy to create a fully-commercial network goes through later this year or early next year.