Don't tie our hands! Councils say no to government's ban on new public bus companies

Bus petition hand-in at the Department for Transport

The government confirmed today that it wants to BAN local authorities from setting up new public bus companies (in the Committee stage of the Bus Services Bill). This is despite the success of existing municipal bus companies like Reading Buses and Nottingham City Transport. Last week we handed in our petition against the ban, signed by over 21,000 people - supported by transport spokespeople from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens as well as Unite and Unlock Democracy. 

Councils across the country have been supporting our campaign against the ban - which would FORBID them from setting up new municipal bus companies. The councils and local government bodies supporting the campaign include:

 

We're now collecting quotes from councils who've supported the campaign, about why the government must drop the ban:

Graham Chapman, Deputy Leader, Nottingham City Council: "Nottingham City Transport provides one of the best services in the U.K. Passenger numbers are going up, the fleet is getting greener every year and it is providing dividends to the council tax payer. It is municipally owned. So why would anyone want to deprive other councils of the chance to provide a similar service to its residents? It makes no sense."

Michael Mordey, Cabinet Member for City Services, Sunderland City Council: "I oppose the Government’s ban on new municipal bus companies, because it flies in the face of their own localism agenda. For 30 years now buses (outside London) have been operated in the interests of profit and not passengers –and that has to stop. The current municipal operators are among the best performing operators in the country and we should be about spreading best practice not protecting profits for a handhold of corporations."

Wendy Cooksey, Labour councillor, Rotherham Council: "Let’s run buses for the public good not private profit. Buses are the life blood of local communities and, as such, should be run to serve them."

Donald Davies, Independent councillor, North Somerset Council: “The West of England LEP is investing considerable sums into the development of its MetroBus system to start to address some of the significant issues of congestion, sustainability, air pollution and drags on economic growth that our existing transport network imposes. If the ban on municipal operation comes into force, then it makes the success of that investment totally dependent on the whims of shareholders of private bus operators, rather than the needs of the residents of the West of England."

Allan Garbutt, Labour councillor, Wakefield Council: "I totally support the campaign to remove clause 21 in the bus service bill, local authorities should have the option to form a bus company if they so wish."

West Yorkshire Combined Authority in its recent update on the Bus Services Bill : "Across the UK, there are a number of good examples where local authority owned bus companies are providing a very effective service. To prevent this option for Authorities would seem to contradict the objective of the Bill to enable local determination of bus services. Whilst WYCA is not currently considering forming a bus company; there could be situations in the future where it may be necessary to start up a bus company. These may include creating an ‘operator of last resort’ where no other company is able to serve an area. A local authority owned bus company may also be necessary to facilitate a community transport service."

John Booker, UKIP councillor, Sheffield City Council: "The Notice Of Motion I submitted in November 2016, supporting the campaign against Clause 21 of the Bus Services Bill, is a very important issue. A well run bus service means a well run city. In essence what we have in Sheffield are private companies running a public service. They have customers to consider but also profit and shareholders to deal with." 

Eleanor Combley, Green councillor for Bishopston and Ashley Down, Bristol City Council - in the Bristol Post: "Hidden in the bill is a disastrous proposal to prohibit local authorities from setting up their own publicly owned bus companies. We support the we own it campaign and their excellent work to get this clause removed. Greens support public ownership of public services wherever possible. Across the country there are 12 bus companies run by local authorities which provide some of the best services and have some of the highest pus passenger numbers outside London. If the government is serious about devolution and localised decision making then they should drop a clause which could prevent other councils from also providing affordable bus services for local communities."

Emma Hoddinott, Labour councillor, Rotherham Council - in the Rotherham Advertiser: “We really are held over a barrel by the private bus companies and we need to rebalance the services so we have more say.”

Here are some quotes from supportive Councillors:

Ruth Funnell, town councillor in Great Torrington, Devon: "We are currently looking at running a community bus service within the town which is not large - only 6,500 inhabitants. We need a bus to enable people to get from one end of the town to the other who do not have cars, hopefully to reduce local car journeys and to enable people trapped in the valley to reach the town centre on the hilltop. It seems absurd to ban local authorities including town councils like ours from running a bus that, in our case, the private companies are not willing to look at. In the '80s the buses were privatised in order to "allow competition".  In fact here, and in many areas, we have a virtual monopoly with Stagecoach.   So, in fact, there are far fewer companies operating that when the services were run by municipalities."

Councilllor Neil Laurenson, Worcester City Council: "I think it’s appalling that the government wants to ban local authorities from setting up their own publicly owned bus companies. It contradicts their alleged commitment to localism and, more to the point, will continue to ensure that people suffer inadequate services."

Councillor Paul Woodhead, Cannock Chase District Council: "It is vital that we should be able to establish a municipal bus company to fight against community isolation forced by private companies putting profits over passengers"

Councillor Pat Cleary, Wirral Council: "Council-run bus services have proven to be better value and more responsive to local needs. I would love to see a council run service in Wirral and across Merseyside to address the obvious failures of the current, profit driven, arrangement."

Councillor Charlie Bolton, Bristol City Council: "In Bristol, we have suffered for years through the worst of all worlds - a bus service which is effectively a private monopoly. Having the power to set up our own service would mean we can run our service with our buses at our frequency on our routes. We can run it as a service - not at a loss, but equally not for profit."

Councillor Lawrence Brown, Liverpool City Council: "Publicly run bus companies present an opportunity to improve the control of timetabled services and fares. The Localism Act enables the creation of LATCos to carry out public services and the use of this model has meant local authorities now benefit from bringing services back 'in-house'. Similar arrangements should allow local authorities to own and run bus companies."

It's crunch time - let's stop the ban

We've got a week before the Bill goes to Report stage in the Commons - now is the time for action! Please help:

1) Share this page (if on twitter, with the hashtag #donttieourhands and copying Lord Ahmad who is sponsoring the Bill @tariqahmadbt and Andrew Jones MP who is reintroducing the ban @AJonesMP). Here are some sample tweets:

  • Don't ban local authorities setting up new bus companies! http://bit.ly/2mwi2ci Please #donttieourhands #localism @tariqahmadbt @AJonesMP
  • Councils oppose the ban on public bus companies. Please #donttieourhands http://bit.ly/2mwi2ci  @tariqahmadbt @AJonesMP #localdemocracy
  • What happened to the powers of competence? Please #donttieourhands with the Bus Services Bill http://bit.ly/2mwi2ci @tariqahmadbt

2) Ask your MP to write to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, the co-sponsor of the Bill.

3) If you're a councillor and want to add your own supportive quote here, email us at info@weownit.org.uk.