BUS services for school children and pensioners could be slashed in Southampton in a bid to save the council hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Hundreds of passengers who every week use the First Bus and City Loop services will be affected by the cutbacks.

Over-60s will also see their entitlement to free bus travel start at 9.30am, instead of 9am, to save more cash.

Head teachers and pensioners condemned the move which they say will lead to increased school run traffic and make it more difficult for elderly people to travel within the city.

Don Harper, secretary of the Southampton Pensioners' Forum, said any bus service cuts would be "a step backwards."

Buses run by First to Springhill School, Sholing Technology College and Grove Park Business and Enterprise College, as well as the free A2B Express City Loop service face the axe.

Grove Park head teacher Eric Freeman said he was surprised at the proposals, as about 30 boys use the school bus each day.

He said: "It's quite a well used service. It seems silly to withdraw subsidy for buses.

"It would only encourage more traffic, particularly with the future of the school when we merge with Woolston (School) into a new city academy."

Mr Freeman said there were parental concerns that with a larger catchment area there needed to be more buses.

"It seems to me very short-sighted. It's bizarre," he said.

Meanwhile Labour Councillor Dennis Harryman has warned that pensioners would be prevented from getting to appointments.

He said: "Most plan to get to a doctor's surgery or hospital appointment early in the morning.

They would prefer that if time is to be taken off it should be at night. The mornings are very important to them. It will stop a lot of people travelling."

Mr Harper added: "It will be a step backwards. We've had the 9am start for years. I think it will upset a lot of pensioners."

The bus proposals are contained in a draft £166m budget published by the city council's minority ruling Conservatives.

It proposes savings of £10m to give residents a below-inflation council tax rise next year.

Council finance chiefs said that the buses facing the axe carried a "very low number of passengers" and were not good value for the public money spent on them.

The withdrawal of subsidies will save the council £350,000.

Changing the start time of free bus travel will save another £75,000 and align it with a nationwide free travel scheme for the over-60s due to start in April.

The city's transport boss, Councillor Gavin Dick, said that there were alternative commercial bus services running and insisted that while they might not be as frequent there would be "no loss in overall service".

Pupils entitled to free bus travel would still get it, he said.

Cllr Dick said that the move was environmentally friendly as it would reduce congestion.

"It doesn't make sense to run two buses on one route," he said. "It's uneconomical".

The situation would be reviewed when the city academies open in September, he added.

Cllr Dick said that he was in talks with health trusts to encourage them to spread appointments more evenly throughout the day.

The draft budget will be open to consultation until February, when it goes before full council for approval.

Councillor Jeremy Moulton, Cabinet member for finance, said: "We will listen to what people have to say. We reserve our right to change things in the light of consultation."

A bus user's group meeting is being held at Above Bar Church at 6pm on November 27 to discuss the changes.

Click HERE to view the full list of proposed budget savings