VITAL community bus links will be undermined by Moray Council budget cuts, it has been claimed.
Councillors will vote on the removal of £300,000 worth of bus subsidies in Wednesday’s crunch budget meeting.
Rural towns and villages will be worst affected by the proposed cut, insist one local service provider.
Services to Kinloss, Findhorn, Garmouth and Kingston are mong those which could be axed, Stagecoach has warned.
The company has called the plans short-sighted.
Stagecoach operates around 70% of tendered services on behalf of the council.
Stagecoach Bluebird Managing Director Andrew Jarvis warned it could lead a worst case scenario of some rural areas having no bus service at all.
The worst hit routes would likely be service 31 to Kinloss and Findhorn, and service 34 to Garmouth and Kingston, which are currently partly supported by Moray Council.
"Moray Council’s plans to cut all funding for public transport across Moray is short-sighted and should be of serious concern to local communities across the area," said Mr Jarvis.
"Bus services are crucial to these communities and are also important to the local economy. As well as linking people to work, healthcare and education, buses support local tourism and are important to people visiting Moray.
"We know the current financial climate is tough for councils. As bus operators, we have also been hit by increasing costs, such as rising energy bills and higher Government tax on our fuel.
"The council’s plans could have a devastating effect on the most rural towns and villages in the area. These are services which already cannot be provided on a commercial basis," he added.
However, a Moray Council spokesman said: “It is presumptuous of Stagecoach to accuse Moray Council of axing public transport investment without knowing the detail of the budget proposals and the alternative funding arrangements for a more demand-led delivery of public transport services, particularly in rural areas.”
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting for the under-fire arts budget to be handed a reprieve.
Tina McGeever, the artistic director of Out of the Darkness Theatre Company, is among those who has spoken out against the proposed cuts.
"Moray is looking towards a new Economic Strategy including the development of the Creative Industries and Tourism to encourage people to view Moray as a vibrant place to visit and to stay.
"I view this as a short-sighted measure that can only damage the development of the Creative industries in Moray and ultimately encourage those working in this field to move to other areas," she said.
The administration wants to slash £63,000-a-year set aside for promotional arts; arts grants of £8,000; and an annual grant of £8,000 for North East Arts Touring.