Councils should take over supervision of bus services, says Local Government Association

Should councils have oversight of bus services?
Should councils have oversight of bus services?

A drop in bus journeys by 300,000,000 in five years has prompted a call for councils to take on oversight of buses.

The Rural Services Network told the Banbury Guardian the decline in bus journeys indicates a need for council involvement in subsidising bus routes.

A spokesman said: "It has been widely reported, including by the iNews, that the number of bus journeys have fallen by 300 million in five years.

"Analysis of government figures by the Local Government Association (LGA) shows 4.3 billion journeys were made in 2018 - 19, compared with 4.6 billion in 2014 -15.

"The LGA believes giving councils oversight of local bus services would enable them to maintain and improve them, as well as protect routes so older and vulnerable people ‘don’t get left behind’."

Earlier this year, it warned that nearly half of routes are at risk of being scrapped due to a lack of funding.

It claimed councils are filling a £652m gap between Government funding for the free bus pass scheme and how much it costs. Free bus passes for off-peak travel are a legal entitlement for people aged over 65, or those with a disability.

But budgetary constraints mean councils are spending less on discretionary items such as free peak travel, post-school transport and supported rural services.

LGA transport spokesman David Renard said: "Councils want to protect local bus services, which are a vital service and can be a lifeline for our most vulnerable residents, whether that is to go shopping, collect medication, attend doctor appointments or socialise with friends.

"The continuing decline in bus journeys emphasises the need to protect bus services and for councils to be able to invest in funding subsidised routes."