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New evidence reveals bus networks “face collapse” if Spending Round cuts funding further

4 June 2013
New evidence released by the Government shows the scale of the threat to bus services if funding is cut in next month’s Spending Round.

The information, obtained by Campaign for Better Transport through a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Transport, shows that if the main support for buses(1) is cut one in seven bus journeys would be lost. This would cost the economy £3.7bn by 2022.

Abolition of the bus service operators grant was threatened in the 2010 Spending Review but saved due to pressure from a range of organisations and MPs. Now over 30 organisations, including the WI, the RNIB and the National Union of Students, have written to the Chancellor demanding he maintain support for bus services in this year’s Spending Round(2).

Modelling by the Local Government Association suggests that further pressure on local authority funding could see councils cutting all their support for bus services(3). Estimates of even a 25% cut in local council support for buses show this would reduce passenger journeys by 14%(4). It would spell the end of local authority support for evening services, services in smaller towns and the end of Sunday buses as authorities struggle to make ends meet.

Buses have already taken significant cuts in Government support:
•    The 2011/12 Spending Review cut funding for local authorities’ transport budgets by 28%
•    A cut of 20% to the direct support all buses receive through the Bus Service Operators Grant from April 2012

Reductions in support resulted directly in cuts by local councils:
•    One in five local council supported bus services were cut or cut back in 2011/12
•    Over 40% of local authorities cut bus services again in 2012/13.

With support for bus services having already faced significant cuts, there are fears that a further round of spending reductions could push many services over the edge, leading to the collapse of entire networks.

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport said

“If Government swings the axe at bus funding again it could spell the end for whole networks of services. There will be grave impacts on employment, education and communities. Campaign for Better Transport is calling on the Government to protect bus funding and avoid cuts which would tip many vital services over the edge.”

Over 30 organisations have signed a letter to the Chancellor, George Osborne, calling on the Government to safeguard spending on buses. The letter sets out how essential buses are to a diverse range of groups. The letter has been signed by the heads of organisations including the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, Royal National Institute of Blind People, the National Pensioners' Convention, National Union of Students and Campaign for Better Transport.

ENDS

For further information please contact Andrew Allen, Press Officer at Campaign for Better Transport, on 020 7566 6483 / 07984 773 468 or andrew.allen@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes

1. Bus service operators grant (BSOG) is the main support provided to bus services. Department for Transport currently funds BSOG to the tune of £445m each year. BSOG works in a similar way to a fuel duty rebate and is the only Government support available to all bus service operators. A Department for Transport response to a recent Freedom of Information request has revealed the excellent value for money which BSOG gives. Over 9 years, removing BSOG would save the Treasury £1.8bn. However, the Department for Transport figures show that removing BSOG would cost the economy £3.7bn in lost time and revenue.

2. 31 organisations have signed a joint letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer setting out the case for protecting spending on bus services [Link to joint letter]

3. The Local Government Association modelling of local authority financing is available on the LGA website. Most bus services are provided on a commercial basis by bus operators but local authorities commission services which would not otherwise be provided. These contracted services are most likely to be buses in rural areas, evening and weekend services and those serving estates on the outskirts of towns and cities.

4. Unpublished modelling carried out by local authorities made available to Campaign for Better Transport.

5. The Chancellor will announce the outcome of the Spending Round on 26 June 2013. Each government department has submitted spending plans to the Chancellor based on 10% cuts to budgets.

6. 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).