The government just got away with BANNING new public bus companies

Shadow transport secretary Daniel Zeichner and Bristol MPs Karin Smyth and Kerry McCarthy

28 April 2017

Yesterday the Bus Services Bill was passed. Unfortunately, the government has gone ahead with banning councils in England from setting up new public bus companies. 

This ban is a disgrace. Taking this option off the table will prevent councils following in the foot steps of those successful public bus companies like Nottingham and Reading. And it will stop them negotiating the best deal with private bus companies because they will know that councils have no other options. It’s also a mistake to take power away from the democratic bodies that are closest to voters. If councils could run buses they could be much more responsive to local needs.

Obviously we’re incredibly disappointed by this news. But we’re proud of the campaign we ran to try and stop this ‘nasty’ little clause from being passed. Together with you, we made public ownership of buses - something that rarely gets talked about - a huge part of the debates in parliament and in the media.

“ I pay particular tribute to the organisation We Own It, which has campaigned strongly against [the ban on new public bus companies]” Daniel Zeichner MP

In the end though, despite the support of the Lib Dems, Labour and the Green Party, given the electoral maths and the English Votes for English Laws system it was all but impossible to over turn the ban once the Conservatives had decided they were forcing it through.

We'd like to say a big thank you to all of you who supported the campaign and took action to help force it onto the agenda of MPs and councillors up and down the country. 

What our supporters helped us achieve:

  • 21,447 people signed our petition to stop the ban
  • 13,832 letters were sent to councillors
  • 40 MPs attended a photoshoot supporting the campaign 
  • 14 councils passed motions supporting our position on the ban
  • 8 partners co-signed a letter to the press denouncing the ban
  • 5 articles published in the mainstream press about the campaign
  • 3 political parties agreed with us and supported the campaign
  • 1 Transport Select Committee agreed with us after thousands of you wrote to them

The fact this bill was passed despite huge opposition and against all evidence to the contrary shows just what we are up against.

We're as frustrated as you are that we lost this one, but we're not giving up. In the run-up to the election we're going to be setting out the case for public ownership of buses (and other services) and showing exactly where the different parties stand.

We've made this a big issue. Now we need to support the parties who want to reverse the government's ban.

People need to know what this government is getting away with. A vote for them is a vote against bus passengers, a vote against local democracy, a vote for profit over people. Share this news with your friends to spread the word.

Step by step, for as long as it takes, we need to swing the consensus our way and show politicians just how strongly people feel about public ownership.

Thanks to everyone who has supported this campaign. We’re sorry we couldn’t bring you better news.

Shadow transport secretary Daniel Zeichner and Bristol MPs Karin Smyth and Kerry McCarthy

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James Dickins replied on

Banning councils from setting up their own bus services - morally disgraceful and pragmatically stupid: EVERYTHING ONE WOULD EXPECT FROM A CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT.

Mark Edwards replied on

disgraceful, dogma driven decision. the market does NOT always know best nor work in the most efficient way. somethings, especially all public transport, are best managed by the state - look to the rest of the world!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jane Harris replied on

An absolute travesty, especially as so many private companies are unable to provide efficient services

Sandra Bartrupe replied on

I am a regular bus passenger, so without this service I would have no communication with people I visit for a chat and to get my regular shopping. So banning councils from setting up their own bus service is ludicrous, only a politician could think this up. What a waste of money.

David Cannon replied on

The Tories are rigging the 'free' market for their corporate friends.

Sybil Ashton replied on

This is a nasty government and it will become even nastier if it gets a big mandate in the election. I wish people realised that the tories are not for ordinary people - they are for their rich mates so that they can take all the public services for themselves. PROFIT - that is the mantra.

Gary Howkins replied on

This Tory government is totally anti-democratic and unpatriotic. It stops local British authorities owning bus companies but allows foreign state-owned companies to buy into our public services. Is there any wonder that our transport fares are the most expensive in Europe?

Tim replied on

Which bit of the bill says this exactly?

Cat replied on

Section 22 Bus companies: limitation of powers of authorities in England

(1) A relevant authority may not, in exercise of any of its powers, form a company

for the purpose of providing a local service


Pam Barrett replied on

Can anyone tell me what's defined as a relevant authority? Are parish councils included?

Carol Stevens replied on

I'm not sure what you mean but Frenck, Dutch and German transport providers own just about all our public transport. Check out where the big companies are based and then check out where all the profits from our puiblic transport go. That's why other countries have really good services because we are subsidising them!

Laurence Howard replied on

This Government is very high in hypocrisy and very low in democracy: e.g. A new Nuclear Power Station at Hinkley Point; New generation of Trident Missiles; Fracking in Leicester--and now this Ban on Public Ownership of Bus Companies! Labour should have brought a motion of NO CONFIDENCE against this miserable Government (with such a slender majority and just 30% of the vote )before Mrs May clinically called the Election. It is our chance to make this backfire on them and give Mr. Corbyn the chance he deserves. Common Ownership is the touch word. DR. E.F. Schumacher's legacy is his book, "Small is Beautiful - A study of Economics as if People Mattered.

Hetty replied on

Who needs TTIP when you have an extreme right government. Labour no doubt have supported the tories on this, as per usual. All in it together, all with shares in private healthcare, transport etc. It's called corruption.

Mark replied on

Labour did *not* support this aspect of the bill but the Tories forced it through anyway.

Robert Turner replied on

Another utterly shameful and cynical mistake by the Tories--who fail to recognize the simple fact that public goods such as public transport should be publicly owned and accountable to the public. Instead, we are treated as profit opportunities for the already-rich.

Hetty replied on

Can anyone get hold of names of those who voted for this, in HoCs?

Gary Fox replied on

Details are here

patrick lowry replied on

This needs to be out there as front page news, it totally epitomises the Tory agenda, they have no interest in doing what is in the public's best interest and people need to wake up to this before the election.

Paul Bunting BSc MSc replied on

I am sorry to say that I regard the Conservative Party as REDUNDANT because, being the Party for business, trade and enterprise, owing to the Civil War inside its Party between those Conservative MPs who understand international trade and the wealth it brings into our economy and those Conservative Brexit MPs who don't understand it, plus Cameron's disastrous EU Referendum which must be the biggest political blunder of the century, the Conservative Government is quite likely to lose us the largest international trading market in the world provided by the European Union. If the Prime Minister goes into the negotiations with the EU to trade with its international trading market saying she does not want EU traders and workers coming into the UK, that is likely to be a stumbling block. In the EU, traders and workers are allowed to choose where to make their living. It is impossible to expect the EU to agree to limitations on free movement of traders and workers because, in World War 2, some EU nations did tell Europeans where to go for work, trade or some other thing with disastrous consequences. So they will not be able to agree to tell the EU traders and workforce that they cannot go to the united Kingdom. Therefore, the Conservative Party for trade, business and enterprise is REDUNDANT because it will lose us the largest international trading market in the world. The EU by negotiating trade deals all around the world has brought many £billions' worth of trade and wealth into our economy. Even if the Brexit Campaign wanted to trade with the rest of the world, it makes no sense at all for them to dump the wealth-creating European Union. A Political Party which, by being obstructive, neglectful or unhelpful in negotiations, loses international trading markets will be doomed for impoverishing our country. In addition, the Brexit Campaign offered us no policies at all for making the UK wealthier than it has been within the EU so as far as I am concerned there is no contest: we are being asked to be idiots by leaving the European Union. Resist the Tories' resistance to international trade. Vote for some other Party like the Liberal Democrats or the Greens which wish to remain in the European Union. Teach the Labour Party about how to do international trade and, if you succeed in doing that, it is safe to vote Labour. That will get our public buses back. When the Secretary of State Duncan Smith told the unemployed to get the bus to the job interview, I had to tell him that most places in the UK have no bus service, small towns have two hourly buses between 09.00 and 17.00 preventing one from getting to work early or working late, and it is only large cities which have anything resembling a comprehensive bus service and that is because the Local Authority subsides essential routes to keep the shops and businesses open. In most places, minicabs do most of the work for the school run or the shopping or work. The Conservative Government is nothing but an absolute disgrace and voting for them will impoverish us.

Paul Bunting BSc MSc replied on

Do not vote for the Conservative Government because it is very likely to lose us the largest international trading market in the world provided by the European Union and this loss will impoverish our nation.

Anthony Woods replied on

The Mafia wins again !

Bernard Mills replied on

What else would one expect from the Tories. Let us hope that is not the end of the matter and after the election the subject can be raised again. Presume they did this to bury the news under the election campaign, I hope the media can be persuaded to show this stinking let down off to the wider public.

Bernard Mills replied on

A further comment. The Tories have made a complete mess of our railways with firms that should never be allowed near a railway running prime rail services. The bus companies have mucked up the railways, now they have a free hand to further damage our buses.

Bruce Hogan replied on

Utter dogma wins again. Cooperation, collaboration and collectivism are anathema to these Tory bigots.

Cecily Jarvis replied on

Blind ideology is a very difficult thing to dislodge but well done everyone for what has been done so far. Do not despair. Even this lot of bigots can't last forever.....can they?

John Duggan replied on

I am old enough to remember when local authorities ran their own bus serves and did it very successfully. Then we were hit with this wonderful thing called deregulation what a farce that turned out to be, it enabled a few to get very rich and did nothing to improve bus services.

To put local bus services back under Local authority control would not be a retrograde step. To do so would enable local government and give control back to the people.

Oh yes one more thing it was one of many dogmatic ideas the Tories enacted, funny things never change, what did Mrs May say I will look after the few and the many will pay. Well maybe that was not what she said but that is what she meant.

David replied on

I voted for brexit to get us out of the undemocratic, unaccountable gravey train that is the EU, and I would again vote for the same as I am not swayed by the offers of baubles, bangles and beads by remaining.

I also voted for UKIP, which I may do again in order to get the proportional representation in their manifesto which is about time the UK had such a voting system also to get rid of the House of Lords as a simple drain on the countries finances, if need be replace it with something better.

RON Carlin replied on

DON'T Don't Vote Conservative





peter day replied on

So much for a democratically run country for people to improve an innervate and find new way of making the ALL IN IT TOGETHER people get there best deal that they can. The I'M ALRIGHT JACKS will always protect the shares in everything, like the Private hospitals, private medical insurance company's and OF COURSE the Arms manufacturing company's.

Maz Asghar replied on

And the rich, powerful and corporate will inherit everything. Vote Tory, vote for the sub-human party! Absolute disgrace.

Robert HALL replied on

What's wrong with the Tories? They lack imagination, talent and have a poor record on the environment, public services and democracy.The vote for the Tories was under 40% in the last General Election.. Do you still want a Tory dictatorship? Vote for electoral reform.

Gloria Davey replied on

British tax payers have been ripped off enough by a government that's supposed to be there for them.

Janet replied on

If people in this country don't want to lose ALL PUBLIC SERVICES INC NHS only way is to vote LABOUR - For a Socialist govt that will renationalise transport, energy etc and properly fund our NHS.

Vince Crosby replied on

This is typical of this government we must keep up the pressure to remove them from power raise it as an issue with the candidates especially tory ones.

Jane Ayres replied on

I'm gutted that clause 21 head failed to be removed.

However, there is a bigger picture. There will now be more local control over buses - a return to some regulation - if this article is correct:

Colin D J Mills replied on

Response from one local councillor (I hope he loses his seat on 4th May, you'll see why): setting up a bus company would be expensive, so he would not be opposing the legislation. Had it occurred to him that those councillors who disagreed with him and thought the expense was worth it would now be barred by statute from voting such a scheme through?? His name is Stuart Hughes (Tory) and he is standing in Sidmouth for Devon County Council.

Nigel Hiley replied on

Imagine the fuss that Conservatives would make if private companies were banned from setting up in competition with public services. The face is that the private sector cannot compete on grounds of service, quality or cost because they pay their executives and shareholders large amounts.

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