Two reports about bus routes in today’s Gazette highlight the vital importance of rural services.

At Bowness, around 40 people braved wind and rain to hauled a minibus along Glebe Road to raise awareness of the uncertain future of the 597 service.

Cumbria County Council cut the route’s subsidy in November and Windermere Town Council stepped in to pick up the cost.

The service takes a circular route from Windermere railway station through the Droomer Estate, Windermere Park and Goodly Dale. It only runs three days a week but has, on average, 60 people using it.

Those taking part were keen to highlight its importance to local people and to raise funds to support it.

Meanwhile, in the Yorkshire Dales, the Sedbergh-basedWestern Dales Bus will run a new service from May to Hawes from Sedbergh and Dentdale each Tuesday, as well as a new service on Sundays to connect Sedbergh with trains at Dent Station.

In November the company stepped in to run several journeys between Sedbergh and Kendal following subsidy cuts by Cumbria County Council.

The General Election promises to be one of the most interesting in years, with the outcome too close to call. And informed opinion suggests whichever party - or parties - ends up running the country after May 7, it will need to make further tough choices about public funding. Local authorities may face making even deeper cuts.

There is often criticism that the London-based government focuses too much on the South - the multi-billion Crossrail project across the capital is cited as an example.

The next Government, whatever its political persuasion, must ensure rural communities like South Lakeland, Eden and the Yorkshire Dales, are vibrant and can thrive. To do so they must be able to retain their GP surgeries, their pharmacies, their village shops and their bus services.

It’s not going to be easy for whoever takes power next week but rural areas like ours have to be given a sufficiently high priority.