On 6 February 2014, Worcestershire County Council's Cabinet agreed to take more time to consider the issue of bus subsidy funding following a consultation that generated over 8,500 responses.
Proposals were put forward in November 2013 to meet the financial challenge the authority faces due to a reduced levels of Central Government funding and were consulted upon until 17th January, 2014.
The Consultation Report giving information on the responses can be found in the following documents:
- Bus Service Review Consultation - Final Draft
- Bus Service Review Consultation - Appendices A-M
- Bus Service Review Consultation - Appendices N-P
A number of factors will be considered before any final decision on possible reductions is taken. These will include:
- Evaluating on a service-by-service basis the detailed responses to the consultation and
- A thorough review of existing data on passenger journeys made on the current subsidised network. This will take in to account journey types, purposes and access to key destinations.
In addition, a review of fares will take place in partnership with commercial operators to establish what contracts would become viable or could operate with a significantly reduced subsidy. The County Council will also continue to explore potential opportunities where, in particular, community transport or commercial operators might provide public transport services.
Any final decision on the amount of subsidy spend and routes supported is not expected to be made until June. Any possible changes would not be implemented until September 2014.
Consultation on subsidised bus service withdrawals
The consultation closed on Friday, January 17. Thank-you to everyone that took time to share their views.
You will probably have read in newspapers, heard on the radio or watched on television that councils and all public services are facing a severe reduction in funding as Central Government deals with the national debt. Every year Worcestershire County Council faces tough decisions about where it spends your money and is currently needing to save £30 million per year. Worcestershire County Council has adopted a proactive approach so that a considered plan can be drawn up of how to address this challenge.
Additional funding reductions for 2013 to 2017, as indicated in the Government Comprehensive Spending Review in June 2013, suggests that the scope and reach of the County County Council's Plan to save money needs to be extended further. This will subsequently have an impact on bus services, with a further reduction of £3 million in the subsidised local bus budget.
Worcestershire County Council currently supports the provision of local bus services to enable access to facilities and services by financially subsidising routes that are not provided on a commercial basis by private operators. A proportion of the savings would need to be reinvested if we still require a local bus to transport entitled scholars to school. Alternatively additional dedicated school transport contracts would have to be provided to meet the need for these scholars.
- Worcestershire County Council Bus expenditure - £3 million per annum
- Number of Services Supported – 97
- Number of Passengers Journeys – 3 million per annum
Worcestershire County Council has a duty to consult as part of its Best Value duty pursuant to the Local Government Act 1999 but would consider it appropriate regardless to consult on bus service reductions. The proposed reduction of subsidised bus services to meet the required financial saving targets as outlined by the BOLD programme.
- To confirm the proposed reduction of £3m in relation to other service areas
- To identify passenger travel information (what services, frequency, purpose etc) to determine what the passenger transport requirements for the county are:
- To identify the impacts of service reductions of customers
- To ascertain if bus fares should increase (and by how much) to help reduce the subsidies required
- Receive further comments
A consultation, which ran from November 8 until January 17, attracted around 8,500 responses. All of the views and comments shared will now be analysed and considered with the information forming a report to Cabinet, which is due to discuss the issue at its February 6 meeting at County Hall. No decisions about the routes affected will be taken on this day.