Labor councilors say Greater Manchester has been ‘short changed’ by the government over transport reforms. They’re calling for a £120 million ‘shortfall’ to be made up after money offered to the region for its ambitious plans for a franchised bus service fell short of what leaders actually asked for.
Andy Burnham last week admitted he could no longer guarantee £1.50 hopper fares after the region was given only half of the money requested from the government from its ‘bus service improvement plans’ pot. And councilors from Greater Manchester’s ten councils are now calling on the government to ‘Back Our Buses’ with more money.
“For all the government’s claims about ‘levelling up’ transport in Greater Manchester to back our vision for a London style public transport network – when it came to coughing up the funding we need, Greater Manchester was short changed,” they say in a joint statement.
“Our Labor Mayor, Andy Burnham, and Labor councilors asked for £218million to support our ambitious plans for cheaper bus fares, more frequent services and 24hr services on key routes. We got less than half that.”
A sum of £94.8m will be paid to Greater Manchester over three years for ongoing costs to run the bus network – but that’s less than half of what is needed to guarantee a ‘London-style’ bus network with hopper fares, new routes and ’24-hour services’. Single journeys at £2 for adults and £1 for children look set to go ahead however.
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“We’re not going to be in a position to do everything that we wanted to do,” Mr Burnham told the MEN last week. “However, we are going to be in a position to improve services.”
The biggest later tweeted that the cash is ‘a vote of confidence’ in plans for the Bee Network.
“We’re grateful for the Government support and, while not everything we asked for, it should still allow us to improve buses as they go back under public control. Regulated services will start on 17 September 2023,” he wrote.
The group of Labor councilors say delivering better services will ‘no doubt’ be made more difficult by the government’s ‘refusal to fully fund our vision’. They have launched upon request calling on the Conservatives to ‘back our buses’.
Greater Manchester did relatively well in its bid for ‘bus service improvement plans’ funding. Liverpool City Region asked for £667million – and got just £12.3million. While South Yorkshire major Dan Jarvis said “we’ve been shafted” after his area he lodged a £474m bid-but got nothing.
The Department for Transport that the 31 areas to receive funding ‘to level up their local bus services’ have been chosen and ‘just under two thirds’ of England’s population outside London will benefit.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Buses are the most popular way of getting around in this country – but for too long people outside of London have had a raw deal. The investment we’re making today to ramp up the bus revolution will drive down fares at a time when people’s finances are tight and help connect communities across England.”
The Labor councillors’ statement in full
“We’re writing as councilors and transport leads to express our concern that – for all the government’s claims about ‘levelling up’ transport in Greater Manchester to back our vision for a London style public transport network – when it came to coughing up the funding we need, Greater Manchester was short changed.
“Our Labor Mayor, Andy Burnham, and Labor councilors asked for £218 million to support our ambitious plans for cheaper bus fares, more frequent services and 24hr services on key routes. We got less than half that.
“While we remain committed to delivering better services across the conurbation, this will no doubt be made more difficult by the government’s refusal to fully fund our vision.
“Politics is all about choices. Currently we have a government which would rather write off billions of pounds of taxpayer money stolen by fraudsters than invest an extra £120 million in improving our public transport network and easing the cost of living through cheaper bus fares.
“We’re launching a campaign calling on the Conservatives to back our buses. And we hope local Conservative councilors and MPs – who so far have opposed our plans for cheaper fares and more frequent services – will join us in securing better buses for all those we represent.
“Sign our petition at http://bit.ly/backourbuses ”
Cllr Kevin Peel, Transport Lead Member, Bury Council
Cllr David Meller, Cabinet Member for Economy & Regeneration, Stockport Council
Cllr Mark Aldred, Chair, Greater Manchester Transport Committee
Cllr Arooj Shah, Leader, Oldham Council
Cllr Roger Jones, Chair, GM Bus Sub-Committee
Cllr Tracey Rawlins, Executive Member for the Environment, Manchester City Council
Cllr Alan Quinn, Cabinet Member for Environment, Climate Change & Operations, Bury Council
Cllr Steve Adshead, Executive Member for Environmental and Regulatory Services, Trafford Council
Cllr Tom McGee, Deputy Leader, Stockport Council
Cllr Joanne Marshall, Lead Member for Green Wigan, Wigan Council
Cllr Warren Bray, Executive Member (Transport and Connectivity), Tameside Council
Cllr Nick Peel, Leader, Bolton Labor Group
Cllr Norman Briggs, Greater Manchester Transport Committee, Oldham Council
Cllr Naeem Hassan, Greater Manchester Transport Committee, Manchester City Council
Cllr Phil Burke, Greater Manchester Transport Committee, Rochdale Council
Cllr Emma Taylor, Assistant Executive Member (Transport), Manchester City Council
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.