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New figures reveal cuts to 1 in 5 council bus services

13 October 2011
Figures obtained by Campaign for Better Transport show council spending cuts have led to 1 in 5 supported bus services being cut with more yet to come. The figures, which were collected through freedom of information requests, reveal that council cuts to bus budgets totalling £36m have resulted in more than 1000 (1114) service cuts.

The transport charity is warning that these cuts are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more bus services are likely to be lost as two thirds (77%) of local transport authorities in England are either planning to, or could not rule out, further cuts in the future.

Sophie Allain, Campaign for Better Transport’s bus campaigner, said: "Buses are cheap and they are essential to the economy, getting people to work and places where they spend money.  Our figures reveal a pretty bleak picture, but what’s more worrying is it’s set to get a lot worse. Unless something is done we run the very real risk of doing to buses what Dr Beeching did to the local rail network. Short-term decisions to make scrappy savings this year look set to cause real damage to the country's local bus network – harming communities and local economies – and will come back to haunt this government.”  

The charity is concerned that the amount of money being cut doesn't adequately reflect the impact of loss of services on passengers, since many councils are not tracking the effects of cuts either in terms of buses lost, or passenger journeys affected. Only 46 councils put a figure on the number of bus services that had been reduced, and only 20 reported how many passenger journeys will be affected.

Cuts to supported services are expected to have a knock-on effect on commercial services, as people can no longer rely on evening buses to get home or on feeder routes linking services. In addition, the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) will be cut by 20 per cent from 2012, which will result in £99.6m less funding, and changes to the way the free bus pass scheme is administered and its budget calculated will mean around another £50 to £100 million reduction in spending on local bus services. 

Campaign for Better Transport is also warning that bus cuts could hamper the Government’s attempts to get more people into work and affect the viability of recent policy announcements regarding job seekers needing to take jobs up to 90 minutes away. Two thirds of jobseekers don’t have access to a car and are reliant on public transport.

The charity is calling on the Government to recognise the economic importance of the bus network and prevent it from being engulfed in a perfect storm of cuts by scrapping plans for further cuts next year and sharing bus funding across Government departments.

1. Freedom of information requests were sent between 6 and 14 July 2011 (and the data includes responses received before the 29 September), asking a range of uniform questions to all 88 English Local Transport authorities outside of London. The responses from each local authority were used to put together a set of data relating to the whole of England outside of London.

2. 74 per cent of local authorities across England have decided to make cuts to their bus budgets (over the period 2011/12 to 2013/14). £36 million has already been cut from local authority funding for supported bus services (drop in funding from 2010/11 - 2011/12) across England. This represents a 13 per cent drop in total spending on supported bus services from the previous year. 

3. Over 1000 bus services (1114) have already been cut in the English regions (non-metropolitan areas outside London) (from 2010/11 to 2011/12). For context, of the local authorities in non-metropolitan areas outside London who reported both a) how many bus services they had previously supported and b) either how many services were lost/reduced or the fact that none were lost/reduced, 21% or 1 in 5 supported services have already been lost (change from financial year 2010/11 – 2011/12).

4. For the purposes of these figures the term ‘bus service cut’ includes both service cuts and route cuts. For example in some cases it might be that a Sunday bus service has been lost or a bus has reduced in frequency (a common example is that there is no longer an evening service), whereas in other cases the entire bus route may no longer run.
5. There is a chance some of the buses which have had their support cut by the council will continue to run on a commercial basis. Local authorities have powers to support buses only when they are not commercially viable, however there are instances where support has been removed and operators have taken the decision to continue running the bus or a similar bus. Commercial operators are not subject to FOI requests and so this data is not consistently available.
6. The Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) will be cut by £99.6m (20%) from April 2012. Changes to the way the free bus pass scheme is administered and its budget calculated mean a further £50 to £100 million is being removed from local bus services.

7. Save Our Buses is a campaign from Campaign for Better Transport that makes the case for buses to Government decision-makers and supports local campaign groups to fight bus cuts in their area. For more information visit the Save Our Buses website. 

8. 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).