HOPES that Cumbria could become a carbon neutral county by the year 2030 have been questioned by councillors.

Over the next decade, public health bosses have said more needs to be done to offset harmful carbon emissions from vehicles.

But councillors have defended car use and said the public transport system in Cumbria failed rural areas, a meeting of South Lakeland District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee was told on Friday.

The discussion came as Colin Cox, Cumbria’s director of public health, unveiled a new public health strategy for the county to the year 2030.

He said the United Nations had suggested the UK become carbon neutral by 2030.

Mr Cox, of Cumbria County Council, said: “Cumbria, to my mind, cannot be exempt from that sort of timescale. I have a date of 2030, although it is not in the strategy. The year 2030 is the timescale we have been given by the UN. We have to try and take action to mitigate climate change.”

Ulverston councillor Janette Jenkinson said poor bus services added to “rural and social isolation”.

Many older residents struggled to visit the town or get to the doctors because of it and needed to use a car, said Cllr Jenkinson, the Conservative councillor for Ulverston West.

Coniston's Cllr Anne Hall said her area had fought long and hard to generate £70,000-a-year for a bus service linking Low Furness with Ulverston. She suggested that the county council needed to plan bus services better.

“The county council gave a bus contract out but all it does is take the children to school and then goes back empty because the public can’t get on it. Guess what? It’s being followed by the service bus, but they won’t join it together."

Cllr Pat Bell described the 10-year strategy as “extremely aspirational” with “little thought” to what services might cost, or who might pay.

“Transport? How do you spell it, never mind see it,” said Cllr Bell, the Conservative councillor for Kendal Rural on SLDC.

Mr Cox said he accepted that transport was “a real challenge” in a large rural area.

He said: “I think what this strategy commits us to do is identifying where is the challenge and doing our very, very best to address it.”

“Are there any new and interesting ways we can come together to do something about transport.

“This issue will not be solved by reintroducing bus subsidies, for example, even when there were bus subsidies, it wasn’t quite hitting the mark in terms of people having good access to local services.”