Theresa May blames local councils for collapse of bus services despite huge government budget cuts

Prime minister accused of passing the buck - after funding for town halls plunged by 45 per cent

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 04 July 2018 13:46 BST
Theresa May discusses buses“I suggest he asks some of those local authorities what they are doing about the buses in their own areas.”

Theresa May sparked a huge row when she blamed local councils for the collapse of bus services – despite her own government slashing their budgets in half.

The prime minister also claimed that routes were disappearing because “working habits are changing”, again rejecting any responsibility for the crisis.

The controversy was raised in the Commons after the Campaign for Better Transport pleaded with ministers to step in – after 188 services were cut in the last year alone.

Jeremy Corbyn asked Ms May to “accept her failure”, pointing out that Whitehall funding for town halls had slumped by 45 per cent since 2010.

But the prime minister replied: “I would merely point out to him that we should look at the responsibility that local authorities have up and down this country for the buses.”

She then added: “What we have seen across the country is, as people’s working habits are changing, we are seeing less usage of buses around the country.

Insisting councils had “responsibilities”, she told the Labour leader: “I suggest he asks some of those local authorities what they are doing about the buses in their own areas.”

In a series of tweets, Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, accused Ms May of washing her hands, as bus passengers suffered.

“The Conservatives are abandoning those who rely on buses, particularly the young, old and those in rural areas,” he alleged.

“Theresa May blames the buses crisis on local government but the Tories have slashed bus funding by 45 per cent since 2010.”

Mr Corbyn surprised most people at Westminster by raising the bus crisis, despite the pressure on Esther McVey for misleading MPs about the universal credit benefit.

The Campaign for Better Transport report warned that £182m had been taken out of council-supported bus services over the decade, affecting more than 3,000 routes.

Steve Chambers, the group's spokesman, warned “the slow death of the supported bus” punished people trying to get to jobs and education and had implications for local economies, health, congestion and pollution.

However, he blamed the government, saying: “The government must wake up to the crisis. We want to see a proper national strategy for buses backed up by funding, like those that already exist for all other modes of transport.”

In the Commons, Mr Corbyn criticised bus deregulation, saying it had led to private firms hiking fares faster than inflation while making a profit of £3.3bn since 2010.

He said pensioners enjoyed free bus travel, but added: “A bus pass isn’t much use if there isn’t a bus.”

And he vowed: “It will be a Labour government that saves the bus industry and a Labour government that gives free fares to under 26-year-olds.”

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