The Bus Services Bill went through its third reading in the House of Commons a couple of weeks ago. The bill includes a clause that would ban councils from setting up new public bus companies to provide bus services. This completely undermines the concept of giving power to local councils as enshrined in the Localism Act. This is supposed to guarantee that councils can do anything they like as long as they can do it well. (And councils do provide great bus services: the winner of the Best Bus Operator at the UK Bus Awards has been a council-run for 4 of the last 5 years).

If there is a local democratic mandate, or if private bus operators fail to provide decent services, councils should have the power to take matters into their own hands. Both of these apply in Worcestershire.

Even worse, the government chose to overturn the suggestion made by the House of Lords that they should extend franchising powers (gives councils more say over prices, routes etc, whilst still being run by private bus ) to all local authorities, rather than just their pet Mayoral authorities. This means that if you live in Worcestershire (no Mayor) your council won’t be able to move to a franchised bus system, like they will in Manchester (mayor), and you’ll miss out on better services and/or lower fares.

Clearly, the government in Westminster have little time for local democracy, or real ‘control.’