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Roads to Nowhere

New research: Half of local authorities withdrawing buses after budgets are slashed by 15 per cent

12 January 2015

Half of local authorities in England and Wales have cut funding for buses in the current financial year, with over £9m wiped off support for services.

New research carried out by Campaign for Better Transport shows that since 2010, local authority funding for bus service has been slashed by 15 per cent (£44m) with more than 2000 routes being reduced or withdrawn entirely.

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

“Across the country, bus services are being lost at an alarming rate. Year on year cuts to budgets mean entire networks have now disappeared, leaving many communities with little public transport and in some cases none at all. We often hear from people with heartbreaking stories, who have been effectively cut off from society following cuts to their bus service. They are unable to access jobs, shops or public services, and are left in isolation with little contact with the outside world.”

Key findings from the research are:

  • Half of English local authorities have reduced funding for bus services in 2014/15. North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Herefordshire, Dorset, Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire are making the deepest cuts
  • The overall cut in support for buses in 2014/15 is £9m. This brings the total reduction since 2010/11 to £44m - a 15 percent cut
  • Rural areas have been worst hit, seeing average budget reductions of 19 per cent this year
  • In 2014/15, nearly 500 bus services were cut, altered or withdrawn, bringing the total to over 2,000 routes since 2010
  • 22 Local Authorities have slashed over 10 per cent from their bus funding in 2014/15. Seven Local Authorities now don't spend anything on supported bus services
  • The overall reduction in Wales in 2014/15 is over £900,000 with 86 bus services having been cut, altered or withdrawn in 2014/15
  • A number of authorities are consulting on further major funding reductions in future years. For example, Derbyshire County Council is currently proposing to cut over £2.5m from its supported bus funding which may include bus routes through the Transport Secretary’s constituency.

[more detailed findings are set out in the notes, below]

Martin Abrams continued:

“It’s very worrying that further steep cuts in budgets are threatened next year and beyond. The Government must wake up to the crisis facing buses and urgently introduce new initiatives which recognise the vital social, economic and environmental role buses play. The challenge for this and future Governments is to secure investment in buses and ensure rescue efforts won't be too little too late.”

Campaign for Better Transport is calling on Central Government to support local buses through the following:

  • Introduce 'Total Transport' - Total Transport allows existing resources to be allocated and co-ordinated more efficiently resulting in better services for passengers. It works by bringing together the bespoke transport services commissioned by different public bodies – for example inter-hospital link services, social services transport to take older people to day centres, and transport for children with special needs to and between schools. This allows central and local Government departments to pool resources and expertise to commission and support transport services including buses. Already popular on the continent, we are calling on Government to trial Total Transport here.
  • Fully fund Concessionary Passes - Nearly 10m people hold concessionary bus passes, helping to tackle social isolation, encouraging healthy active lives, and contributing to local and national economies. The failure of the Government to fully fund the scheme leaves bus operators at a disadvantage and must be resolved. At the same time it should standardise and enhance concessionary travel schemes for younger people, especially those in education, on apprenticeships or out of work.
  • Establish a Connectivity Fund - A Connectivity Fund should be established to bring together the existing Bus Service Operators' Grant (BSOG) with additional ‘top slicing’ from 11 other Government Departments that benefit from functional bus networks such as the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Health, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and Department for Education, into a ring-fenced pot for local government to support bus services. The Connectivity Fund should aim to provide £500m in bus funding which will pay for itself by reducing the cost of other public services and by supporting economic growth.

Notes

1. Buses in crisis: A report on bus funding across England and Wales 2010 - 2015 was published on 12 January 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 fourth 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.

2. 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 19 per cent of bus provision in England, down from 22 per cent in 2013/14. This percentage varies considerably across the country, ranging from just 5 per cent in some urban areas to almost 100 per cent in some rural areas.

3. Successive Governments have made significant cuts to funding for local authorities. In May 2014, the Local Government Association claimed that funding for local authorities from central Government would be likely to fall by 40 per cent over the course of the current Parliament.

4. The Government’s annual bus statistics show bus mileage on supported services falling by 59 million miles, whilst commercial services have only partially increased by 33 million miles to fill this gap.

England

  • The overall cut in England 2013/14 to 2014/15 is £9,004,985
  • The overall cut in England 2010/11 to 2014/15 is £44,223,85 a 15 per cent cut in Funding since 2010
  • The absolute cut in England 2013/14 to 2014/15 (The total amount cut from Local Authorities excluding those that increased spending) is £14,925,447
  • The absolute cut in England 2010 to 2015 (The total amount cut from Local Authorities excluding those that increased spending) is £55,439,800
  • Non Passenger Transport Executive (PTE) areas have cut 19.4 percent of bus funding since 2010 whilst PTE areas have cut 5.7 per cent since 2010
  • In total 496 bus services have been cut, altered or withdrawn in 2014/15. When broken down this means 274 bus services have been cut or altered whilst 222 bus services have been withdrawn altogether. Since 2010 over 2,000 buses have been cut, altered or withdrawn from service.
  • North Yorkshire (90) and Cumbria (68) are cutting the most bus services in England followed by Herefordshire (44), Dorset (42), Nottinghamshire (38) and Worcestershire (27), other local authorities account for (187)
  • 50 per cent of local authorities have cut funding for bus services in 2014/15, whilst 42 per cent have cut or withdrawn services. Since 2010 70 per cent of local authorities have cut funding for bus services
  • 7 Local Authorities now don't spend anything on supported bus services including Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees, Darlington, Stoke-on-Trent, Luton, Southend on Sea, Wrexham
  • The North of England fared the worst for bus service cuts this year as Yorkshire and the Humber cut 127 services, North West cut 121 services, South West cut 88 services, West Midlands cut 78 services, East Midlands 40, South East 30, East of England 9 and North East 3
  • 22 Local Authorities have cut over 10 per cent of bus funding in 2014/15 including Stockton-on-Tees Council, Warrington Borough Council, Cumbria County Council, Greater Manchester ITA, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, North Yorkshire County Council, Northamptonshire County Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, Herefordshire Council, Shropshire, Council, Worcestershire County Council, Peterborough Council, Luton Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, Medway Council, Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, Milton Keynes Council, Portsmouth City Council, Southampton City Council, Bournemouth Borough Council, Dorset County Council, Gloucestershire County Council

Wales

  • The overall cut in Wales2013/14 to 2014/15 is: £901,666
  • The overall cut in Wales 2010 to 2015 is: £169,815 due to an increase in funding in some years
  • The absolute cut in Wales 2014/15 (The total amount cut from Local Authorities excluding those that increased spending) is: £1,165,533
  • The absolute cut in Wales 2010/15 (The total amount cut from Local Authorities excluding those that increased spending) is: £1,653,364
  • In total 86 bus services have been cut, altered or withdrawn in 2014/15 The total number of service reductions 2014/15 is: 70 and the total number of complete service withdrawals is 16
  • The reason that buses have been withdrawn without a significant reduction in funding reduction is the £5.45m cut in funding for concessionary bus pass reimbursement by the Welsh Government
  • There are approximately 9.7 million older and disabled people concessionary bus passes in England. Concessionary travel has led to an overall increase in bus patronage since 2006 but cuts to bus funding could mean that those benefiting from concessionary bus travel no longer have buses to travel on