Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

Tories are stopping us having own local bus services

Adur & Worthing Liberal Democrats are extremely concerned about Clause 21 of the Bus Services Bill – currently going through parliament – which stands to effectively ban local authorities like West Sussex from setting up new publicly owned bus companies. 

This is an unnecessary and ideological move that ignores the evidence, lacks public support (from all voters) and undermines localism. 

Please join with us to support the campaign by We Own It to get the government to omit Clause 21 from the Bus Services Bill. 

There are three main reasons you should oppose Clause 21:

1. There is no evidence base for it.

There are twelve local authority-run bus companies in the UK. These provide some of the best bus services in the country. Local authority-run bus companies, like Reading Buses and Nottingham City Transport, have won bus operator of the year in four of the last five years. We think Worthing should have one too and provide real competition to private giants like Stagecoach. Whilst financial constraints might realistically prevent the establishment of a new public bus company by West Sussex County Council, the evidence suggests that councils should at least be legally allowed to consider following the successful footsteps of Nottingham and Reading if there is the Political will. Local Lib Dems certainly think there is a strong case.

2. Public opposition to Clause 21

We Own It commissioned polling across the political spectrum people were opposed to this sort of arbitrary ban on council powers – regardless of the extent to which they exercise them. Most people would also like to see more public ownership of buses (by a ratio of 3:1) – just as they want to see public ownership of rail, energy and the NHS. People know it works. The point is that Clause 21 won’t even allow this option to be considered by councils – potentially for a long, long time.

3. Localism

We’re told by the Tory government they have a commitment to localism and devolution. This is enshrined in the 2011 Localism Act which gave more power to councils to provide services unless other laws explicitly prevent them from doing so.  In short, we shouldn’t let ideology get in the way of effective service provision. As a Conservative peer, Lord True, put it when discussing the Bus Services Bill: 

I have no ideological objections—noble Lords will not be surprised, as I am the leader of a local authority—to local authorities running buses or running anything at all, if they can show that they can do it economically and effectively.” We agree!

For more information about the campaign