Report highlights a net reduction of £10m in funding, a 3.6% spending cut
The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) has released its third consecutive report looking into supported bus provision across England, with the foreboding title ‘Buses in Crisis.’
The key finding of the research was that £17.5m has been cut from local authority budgets for supported bus services in England, which when combined with a £7.5m increase in spending by some local authorities meant the net reduction in funding was £10m in 2013-2014. The figure represents a 3.6% cut in spending overall.
Almost half (46%) of local authorities have cut spending on supported services, while 36% have removed some services entirely. A total of 147 services have been withdrawn across the country.
The CBT said the context of the report is one of severe bus cuts and the continued managed decline of funding for supported bus services, claiming there could be even worse to come next year, with many areas, urban as well as rural, consulting on drastic cuts in funding and services.
“As we have said, buses tend to be treated as a local issue, left to local authorities,” the report said. “But the trends we have found matter nationally and the governments in London and Cardiff should be concerned – further cuts in bus funding and services will undermine core Government policies to promote growth, reduce unemployment and tackle welfare dependency.
“As our research has shown, if bus services continue to be cut many people currently unemployed will simply be unable to access jobs, education or training, and many older people will suffer social isolation.
“This suggests that a new approach is needed to support buses and local public transport.”
The CBT made a number of suggestions. These included a focus on access, with any bus policy needing to take as its starting point the importance of access to key facilities and services, pooled and ring-fenced funding, with funding for minimum standards of access to employment areas and key facilities and services paid for by pooling funding from across government, especially from the government departments which most benefit from having good bus services, and a long term investment plan – having a five year investment plan for buses which would give the industry and local authorities certainty and help plan investment in vehicles and infrastructure.
“This new approach would need to be linked to a long term vision for public transport, which will be crucial in securing services for the many people who rely upon them every day. The Government should recognise the importance of buses and look at ways to fund them properly, so as to avoid the problems we have identified and keep the country moving,” the report concluded.