4 May 2021
RMT Press Office:
RMT warns of an impending bus cuts crisis as its survey of Local Councillors across England reveals that nearly 70% think their Council will be forced to cut funding for local bus services.
A survey by Bus Union RMT of cross-party local councillors across the country has revealed that a cuts disaster looms for Britain’s bus network unless the Government takes far more radical action than is set out in its National Bus Strategy.
The survey of councillors at Local Transport Authorities in England, outside London, found that 67% thought that their Council would be forced to cut funding for local bus services in the future, with two-thirds of those citing lack of Central Government funding as the reason.
In the deregulated bus market, cash strapped local councils are forced to subsidise any socially or economically necessary routes that the commercial operators do not deem profitable, yet they are still banned from setting up their own municipal bus company. The Government’s recently published National Bus Strategy has committed to reviewing this ban, and RMT is demanding that the ban is reversed as a matter of urgency.
Just 12% of councillors thought that the bus operators in their area would not cut commercial services in the future, and it is clear that the Government must take action to prevent the commercial bus operators decimating services as they seek to maximise profit when the Covid-19 Bus Services Support Grant (CBSSG) comes to an end.
If the Government does not take action to prevent cuts to local bus services, it will be disastrous for communities across the country and for the environment. In the survey, a massive 84% of councillors had concerns about the impact of bus cuts on local people and communities, including concerns about the impact on elderly and disabled people, public health, job security, inequalities, disadvantaged communities, and climate change.
RMT believes that the National Bus Strategy has so far failed to provide local authorities with sufficient certainty around future funding for bus services, and it must urgently give local authorities a long-term funding settlement that is ring-fenced for local bus services and reverse the illogical ban on new municipal bus companies.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“Local bus services are a lifeline for many and have a vital role to play in connecting communities, preventing social isolation and reducing pollution and carbon emissions. Yet, RMT’s survey of local councillors shows that unless the Government provides sufficient funding and certainty for local authorities, many will be forced to cut support for socially and economically necessary services, which will be devastating for local communities.
“Bus use has already been hit by the COVID – 19 pandemic and it is clear that the commercial operators will have no qualms slashing services once emergency Covid-19 funding comes to an end and we need urgent action from the Government to prevent the impending cuts crisis.
“Bus services are a sustainable and low-carbon transport and have a vital role to play in our fight against climate change, with COP26 just months away, the Government must get serious about creating a first-class local bus network that provides a viable alternative to the car. The Government must urgently reverse the ban on new municipal bus companies, and provide all local authorities with sufficient, ring-fenced, national funding to enable them to provide the local bus services their communities need.
“Our bus network should be run as a fundamental public service, and not for commercial gain.”