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Government cuts threaten entire bus networks as new research shows deepening national crisis facing local buses

19 November 2015

A group of charities and NGO's today called on the Government to protect buses from further cuts in next week's Spending Review, as new research showed a continued steep decline in council-funded bus services

The ‘Buses in Crisis’ report shows that since 2010 £78 million has been axed from local authority bus funding in England and Wales resulting in over 2,400 bus services being reduced, altered or withdrawn from service. 63 per cent of local authorities in England and Wales have cut funding for bus services in 2015/16 with 44 per cent reducing or withdrawing services entirely.

The report has been released at the same time as a broad coalition of charities, NGOs and Trade Unions including Campaign for Better Transport, The Association of Colleges, NUS, The Ramblers, Independent Age and Greenpeace have written to the Chancellor calling on him to protect buses from any further cuts in the Spending Review.

Martin Abrams, Public Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport, said:

“The bus crisis across the country is now causing real hardship for many people. Our research shows that in many areas funding cuts have now reached new depths. Many places are being left with no bus services at all and even in better served areas our research shows continuing fare rises mean people are being priced off buses.

Local bus services provide a vital role to the community and for some people, especially in rural areas, buses are their only means of getting to work or school, to visit friends or to access shops and public amenities." 

Key findings from the ‘Buses in Crisis’ research:

·  In total £22.2 million has been cut from supported bus funding in England in 2015-16.

·  In Wales responsibility for bus services is devolved to the Welsh Assembly. In total £2.1 million has been cut from supported bus funding in 2015-16.

·  Since 2010-11 a total of £78 million has been cut from supported bus services in England and Wales, a 25 per cent cut.

·  All but five of the 22 Welsh Local Authorities have made cuts to bus funding in the past year.

·  In England, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Bristol City Council and East Sussex are making the largest cuts. 

·  40 local authorities in England and Wales have cut over 10 per cent from their bus funding in 2015/16 with 11 local authorities now spending nothing on supported bus services.  

·  Local bus fares in England increased by 61 per cent on average between March 2005 and March 2015. Bus fares have risen at a faster rate in metropolitan areas (71 per cent) than in non-metropolitan areas (44 per cent). The Retail Prices Index has risen by 35 per cent over the same period, which means that bus fares have risen significantly in real terms.

Martin Abrams continued:

"Now is the time for central and local government to appreciate the real value of bus services with actions not just words. In next week's Spending Review, the Chancellor George Osborne has a simple choice: go for further cuts in bus funding, with all the social and economic damage these will cause, OR recognise the vitally important role buses play for millions of people every single day and ensure they have the funding they need and deserve."

Campaign for Better Transport is calling on central government to support local buses by protecting the Bus Service Operators Grant from further cuts in the Spending Review, and ensuring that it remains a protected ring-fenced fund. For the longer term, it wants the Government to put buses on a more secure financial footing through implementing a 'Connectivity Fund' as well as a "Total Transport" programme to bring together different funding for transport across Government.

Ends

For further information please contact:

Richard Watkins, Press Officer, at Campaign for Better Transport on 020 7566 6494 or richard.watkins@bettertransport.org.uk  

Notes to editors

  • Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).
  • The Buses in Crisis report was published on 19 November 2015 by Campaign for Better Transport. It is based on Freedom of Information requests to all 110 local transport authorities across England and Wales. This is the fifth year that Campaign for Better Transport has monitored the impacts of cuts to supported bus services (those services funded by local authorities) in this way.
  • Campaign for Better Transport, The Association of Colleges, NUS, The Ramblers, Independent Age and Greenpeace have written to the Chancellor calling on him to protect buses from any further cuts in the Spending Review. Read the joint letter here.
  • Supported buses are services that are subsidised by local authorities because they are not provided by commercial bus companies. They serve communities where no alternative route exists, meaning that any cut or alteration can often have a huge impact on residents and local economies. They also provide services in evenings and at weekends when otherwise services would cease. These subsidised or supported services represent 17 per cent of bus provision in England, down from 19 per cent in 2014/15. This percentage varies considerably across the country, ranging from just 0 per cent in some urban areas to almost 100 per cent in some rural areas.
  • The Local Government Association expect that funding for local authorities from central government in the forthcoming Spending Review would likely fall by a further 40 per cent over the course of the current Parliament.
  • The Government’s annual bus statistics (year ending March 2015) show that over the last decade bus mileage on local authority supported services has fallen by 55 million miles, while commercial services have only increased by 13 million miles to fill this gap.

England

·  The overall cut in England 2014/15 to 2015/16 is: £20,578,444 or 8.3 per cent

·  The overall cut in England 2010/11 to 2015/16 is: £73,830,256 a 25 per cent reduction in Funding since 2010

·  The absolute cut in England 2014/15 to 2015/16 (the total spending amount reduced by local authorities excluding those that increased spending) is: £22,228,300

·  Non Passenger Transport Executive (PTE) areas have cut 25.3 percent of bus funding since 2010 whilst PTE areas have cut 7.3 per cent since 2010

·  In England 372 bus services have been reduced, altered or withdrawn in 2015/16. When broken down this means 248 bus services have been reduced or altered while 124 bus services have been withdrawn altogether. 

·  Largest council cuts: Hertfordshire £1,718,235; Surrey £1,535,000; Lancashire £1,200,000; Nottinghamshire £1,100,000; Bristol City Council £ 1,000,467; East Sussex £956,000

·  Largest Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs) cuts: Greater Manchester ITA £2,650,000

·  Devon and Hertfordshire are cutting the most bus services in England (58 and 54 services respectively) followed by Greater Manchester ITA (35), Staffordshire (35), Merseytravel ITA (20) and West Yorkshire ITA (18), Isle of Wight Council (18) and Somerset (17)

·  There are 11 councils spending nothing on supported buses and these are: Hartlepool Council, Stockton-on-Tees Council, Darlington Borough Council, Blackpool Borough Council, Cumbria County Council, Stoke on Trent City Council, Luton Borough Council, Southend on Sea Borough Council, Cardiff Council, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, Wrexham County Borough Council. 

·  The south of England fared the worst for bus service cuts in the country this year as the South East cut 97 services and the South West cut 84 services. The North West cut 62 services, East England cut 57 services, West Midlands 38, East Midlands cut 10 services and the North East cut 5 services

·  29 English Local Authorities have cut over 10 per cent of bus funding in 2015/16 and these are: Middlesbrough Council, Northumberland County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Greater Manchester ITA, North Yorkshire County Council, Derby City Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, Herefordshire Council, Staffordshire County Council, Worcestershire County Council, Thurrock Borough Council, Bedford Borough Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Norfolk County Council, Reading Borough Council, Slough Borough Council, Milton Keynes Council, Isle of Wight Council, East Sussex County Council, Hampshire County Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Surrey County Council, West Sussex County Council, Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, Torbay Borough Council, Wiltshire Council, Gloucestershire County Council, Somerset County Council

Wales

·  The overall cut in Wales 2014/15 to 2015/16 is: £2,105,644 or 11.3 per cent

·  The overall cut in Wales 2010/11 to 2015/16 is: £4,264,642 or 20.6 per cent

·  The absolute cut in Wales 2015/16 (the total spending amount reduced by local authorities excluding those that increased spending) is: £2,191,180

·  In total 53 bus services have been reduced, altered or withdrawn in 2015/16. The total number of service reductions 2015/16 is 32 and the total number of complete service withdrawals is 21

·  11 Welsh local authorities have cut over 10 per cent of bus funding in 2015/16 and these are: Bridgend County Borough Council, Cardiff Council, Carmarthenshire Council, Ceredigion Council, Denbighshire Council, Isle of Anglesey Council, Monmouthshire Council, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, Newport City Council, Powys County Council, Rhondda Cynon Taff Council