Transport watchdogs and Cornish MPs have reacted angrily to sweeping cuts in bus services announced by First.

One hundred and fifty jobs are to go and a number of services lost. Unless the county council comes up with more cash to help prop up other routes, they too could be axed.

The latest cuts come in the wake of the planned closure of First's Truro depot. Now up to 35 drivers from Camborne, Truro and Falmouth will lose their jobs, with a further 12 administrative and management workers at the depot.

The Truro city centre site used by First has been sold for development. The bus company will move to another site near the city from which it will maintain vehicles, but with fewer staff.

In addition, a total of 15 "less well-used services" in the three areas will be axed and a further 35 will undergo changes. Up to 20 engineering staff will go from the St Austell depot, also marked for closure.

Truro MP Matthew Taylor, who was already planning a meeting with First bosses, said: "When this meeting was arranged, I was pleased to hear that extra drivers were being recruited by First to improve reliability. Yet within a day of that news, I am told they are axing routes and cutting staff.

"Frankly, First management don't know whether they are coming or going - and neither do their customers or staff. This is a real let down by First group."

Mr Taylor said he would do what he could to try and get the company to reverse its decision or get other operators to take over the routes on behalf of the one in five people in the district who did not drive.

David Ridgewell for the watchdog group Transport 2000 said his members were "extremely concerned" and would be lobbying the county council to do all it could to fund services so desperately needed. "We are not surprised by the news," he said. "We still need to find a better way of funding bus services in Cornwall.

"The county council should decide which routes it wants to keep and fund them."

There was serious concern for routes around Truro and Falmouth and any further cutbacks would be disastrous.

Falmouth and Camborne MP Candy Atherton was "disappointed" too about redundancies in her constituency and reductions in services. She was planning a meeting with the managing director of First, Gerald Taylor, to discuss the changes.

"These are commercial decisions because First cannot run at a loss but I will also be contacting the county council about replacing services where they are necessary to people in my constituency. Stithians, for example, has lost links to nearby towns. I am also concerned that the Falmouth town centre service has been withdrawn due to poor management of traffic in the main street. The knock on effect of service reductions is that more people have to purchase cars and this can affect other bus services."

First defended the cuts saying they were necessary to make the whole network viable.

Mr Taylor said: "This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. We find ourselves losing money and, like all bus companies, we cannot allow this situation to continue. First is a major employer in Cornwall and we have to make sure that we keep ourselves on a firm financial footing."

My Taylor said that some unpopular routes, including the 48 and 49 from Camborne to Kehelland and Gwithian where the 21 passengers a week were subsidised £10 a journey, would stop altogether.

"Everybody wants a bus service, but in a predominantly rural area like Cornwall there isn't enough money for everyone to have one," he said.

Robert Hichens for the county council said: "Subsidising passenger journeys costs the county council around £4 million a year at present, but transport budgets are under pressure for the coming year so there are no guarantees that we can extend subsidies to extra routes."

Mr Hichens said that some of the services being withdrawn by First may continue with county council support via an alternative operator, but in a few cases low levels of patronage may mean that support will have to be withdrawn.

Proposed changes to First's services do not come into effect until May 26, with the final published timetable available from May 16.