On the CBC Buses

12

Below is a half-decent Motion jointly submitted by LibDem Cllr Mark Cory and his fellow Wivenhoe ward Cllr, Labour’s Rosalind Scott.

Full Council [pdf] will debate on 2 November a proposal which essentially sets out the ambitions of Colchester Borough Council to become a bus operator.

DING DING.

It is good to see some critical thinking appear at a local level. Whether a Motion discussed by a North Essex local authority will have any impact on changing central government policy is another matter.

But good effort, all the same.

Key to the Motion is the belief that the Bus Services Bill will stop CBC from setting up an in-house company to provide a public bus service.

There is no suggestion that the big red wheels have already been set in motion at the Town Hall to start such an initiative – but it is an intriguing idea, all the same.

*some* local operators have been piss poor of late.

Headingham – we’re looking directly at you with your hit and miss No. 87 that has brought misery to many Brightlingsea and Wivenhoe residents over the past few months.

Taking the Motion a step further, we do wonder what type of model localgov could offer at this level.

Would it be for profit?

Could a CBC branded bus compete with the likes of Headingham and First in the free market, or would it be a public service operated at neutral cost?

It is unlikely that CBC would have the spending power to purchase a fleet, let alone manage the staff. We’re probably talking about an out-sourced model – which kinda defeats the aims of the public sector Motion…

But hey hoe.

It will be interesting to see what the pro ‘Commissioning Council’ Colchester Conservative response will be at Full Council on Wednesday evening.

Motion that:-

1. This Council notes:

(i) That the Bus Services Bill currently passing through Parliament includes clause 21 that will “prohibit a local authority from forming a company for the purposes of providing a local bus service”.

(ii). That the Localism Act (2011) provides general powers of competence to local authorities, but that this Bill will heavily restrict councils in finding solutions to their own local transport needs.

(iii) That municipal bus companies provide some of the best bus services in the country and have a track record of increasing bus passenger numbers and providing high quality bus services.

Colchester currently faces significant issues with the quality of service provided by the current private bus operators.

(iv) That the cross party Local Government Association has made clear its opposition to clause 21.

2. This Council believes:

(i) Clause 21 contradicts the general powers of competence and the spirit of the Localism Act 2011.

(ii) If there is a need, and councils can offer a value for money service, then councils should be able to provide their own bus services. Should they wish, councils should be legally able to follow the model developed by councils including Reading and
Nottingham.

(iii) Consequently clause 21 should be omitted from the Bus Services Bill.

3. This Council resolves:

(i) To write to Lord Ahmad and to call on the Department for Transport to omit clause 21 from the final legislation.

(ii) To write to Will Quince MP, Bernard Jenkin MP and Priti Patel MP to ask them to oppose clause 21 when the Bus Services Bill reaches the House of Commons and ask them to write to Lord Ahmad and the Department of Transport to raise concerns about clause 21.

(iii) To cooperate with other Essex Authorities to review cross-county bus services and oppose any further restriction upon our current powers to provide local bus services.