Taking advantage of an opportunity whilst visiting the Green Party Peer Baroness Jones of Moulescoomb ahead of the second reading of the Bus Services Bill in the House of Lords on Monday 24th October 2016 a delegation from the Cannock Chase Green Party spoke about the damage being inflicted on our communities by bus companies operating for profit not people.

Baroness Jones of Moulescoomb, Green Party Peer in the House of Lords referenced private bus operator Arriva dropping less profitable routes to leave communities in Cannock Chase stranded and begging lifts from neighbours.

“When private bus companies drop less profitable routes, residents must be able to turn to their local councils who ​understand the need for connectability and access. Local buses aren’t only a way of getting around, they are also a way of meeting and talking to people and they encourage vital social interaction.”

On the 30-year anniversary of bus deregulation, campaigners are calling on MPs to ‘take control of our buses’ by opposing the government ban on new public bus companies. The government wants the Bus Services Bill currently being debated to include clause 21 which would stop English local authorities from setting up new municipal companies. We Own It is asking MPs to show they support bus passengers and oppose the clause.

Paul Woodhead, Green Party Councillor for Hednesford South in Cannock Chase commented;

“Whilst the current leadership lacks the imagination and vision to serve our communities with a bus service focused on people and relies upon an agenda of cuts to deliver a reduced council services to Cannock Chase we look forward to a time with more progressive, Green leadership that will deliver value centred in our community and ensuring we have the option to run a local bus service for people not shareholders should not be removed by a national agenda, cuts have consequences.

“Indeed it is notable that whilst our Member of Parliament, Amanda Milling, may talk tough when Arriva remove yet another community service her actions are conspicuous by their absence of support for a real alternative the will allow an option for taking back control in the future”

On the 30th anniversary of bus deregulation, We Own It is also asking bus passengers to send their ‘bus selfies’ and explain why they want public ownership to be an option for local authorities.

The Transport Act 1985 was implemented on October 26th, 1986. Since deregulation, fares have risen well above inflation and many routes have been cut.

Fares in England (outside London) rose by 35 per cent above inflation between 1995 and 2013. Bus mileage on local authority supported services in England outside London dropped by 12.3 per cent just in the last year. Bus deregulation leaves few options for cash-strapped local authorities – whereas municipal companies like Reading Buses can use profits to reinvest in services.

Cat Hobbs, Director of We Own It said:

“It’s absurd that after 30 years of the failures of private bus companies, the government is ruling out new public ownership of buses. It’s time to take control of our buses and run them for people not profit. All councils should be not just allowed but encouraged to follow the lead of the public ownership success stories in Nottingham and Reading.”

While buses are privatised in most towns and cities across the UK, there are 12 local authority-owned bus companies, for examples in Edinburgh, Nottingham and Blackpool. In 4 of the last 5 years, local authority run buses have won Bus Operator of the Year at the Bus Awards.

Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party co-leader said:

“Buses are a public service and a lifeline for many people. As such, it should be possible to run local bus services for the good of the public rather than for profit. The option of public ownership is therefore essential, whether that’s local authorities, co-operatives of local users or community interest companies. Putting passengers first is a priority for the Green Party and affordable, accessible, reliable and integrated public transport is at the heart of our vision for a fairer greener future. I’ll be voting against Clause 21 and championing everyone’s right to good local buses as a basic public service.”

Research from Transport for Quality of Life suggests we could save £506 million a year from buses outside London by bringing them into public ownership. Municipal bus companies are common in other European countries such as Austria, France and Germany.

We Own It polling shows that 57% of the British public think local authorities should be allowed to set up new public bus companies – as opposed to 22% who don’t believe they should have this power. Amongst Conservatives, the majority still oppose clause 21. Over four times as many people want more public ownership of buses than want more private ownership (46% to 11%). 26% want to see no change.

Notes to editors

1) The Bus Services Bill is being debated in the House of Lords on Monday 24th October. It has not yet been through the Commons http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/busservices.html

2)  http://www.ippr.org/files/publications/pdf/greasing-the-wheels_Aug2014.pdf?noredirect=1

3) See Department for Transport’s ‘Annual bus services 2015/16’, October 2016.

4) Bus awards http://www.ukbusawards.org.uk/content/index.php/results-mainmenu

5) ‘Building a world class bus system for Britain’, Transport for Quality of Life http://www.transportforqualityoflife.com/u/files/160314_Building_a_World-class_Bus_System_extended%20summary%20report_FINAL4_for_web.pdf

6) https://weownit.org.uk/blog/majority-public-want-councils-be-allowed-run-buses

7) Speech by Baroness Jones to support an amendment to Clause 21 http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/59f8f81f-eb83-4903-b380-16e7eb189014?in=18%3A26%3A29&out=18%3A28%3A18

·  Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)               

I rise to support the amendment and to rebut utterly what the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has just said. I think he has a rather narrow view of the sort of situation that can ​arise. I spoke only today to a Green Party councillor from Cannock Chase in Staffordshire who told me that several private bus companies have dropped their less profitable routes, so communities are now stranded. People who do not have cars have no option for travelling apart from begging lifts from neighbours who do.

·  Earl Attlee

Is it not open to local authorities to subsidise the route in question?

·  Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

Why not run them more efficiently in the first place? Public ownership can be very cost effective and much more so because it caters to the needs of the people that it represents. People are saying to councils, “This is what we want”, and private bus companies often do not give it to them.

Limiting the power of local authorities to help their communities, as the noble Earl suggests, is a very undemocratic thing to do—perhaps that is not surprising in an undemocratic House. Clause 21 spoils what is a laudable and well-intentioned Bill. I beg the Minister to ignore what he has heard from behind him and to listen to this side of the House. It is a case of representing people and giving them fuller lives, which private bus companies, because they are in it entirely for profit, just do not see. I beg the Minister to accept the amendment.