The Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities (SIGOMA) has written to UK prime minister Rishi Sunak calling for a long-term plan to support local transport ahead of the King’s Speech later today.
The open letter states that while schemes such as the £2 bus fare freeze indicate short-term success, the removal of 1,000 buses from circulation in 2022 is not indicative of long-term planning and that transport services will continue to deteriorate without major investment.
Instead, SIGOMA, which representing 47 urban authorities in the northern, midlands and south-coast regions of England) and 28 cities across England and Wales, suggests the UK government makes improvements to and investments in local bus networks and mass transport innovation by devolving current London-style bus franchising powers to local areas.
SIGOMA said it was “deeply concerned that the financial situation for many of our councils is reaching breaking point”.
According to the organisation, six councils have issued Section 114 (S114) notices [when an authority cannot make new spending commitments] since 2020, while a recent survey by SIGOMA found that 30% of its members felt they might face this decision by next year.
What’s more, one in 10 county councils in England are also reportedly facing S114, which, SIGOMA believes, puts vital services, including public transport, at risk in “potentially hundreds of UK councils”.
“Properly funded local services are at the heart of any prosperous society. This cannot be achieved by simply passing the costs on to local taxpayers through increasing council tax and the social care precept. This will place extra burdens on those who cannot afford to pay in many of our most deprived areas, widening inequality across the country,” wrote SIGOMA in the open letter.
And despite welcoming Sunak’s new focus for taking long-term decisions to deliver change, SIGOMA warned that, without better government funding, the UK’s transport systems will “continue to worsen”.
The open letter also urged the government to put reforms to the UK’s housing strategy, clean energy agenda and local government finance system at the heart of the upcoming King’s Speech in order to help urban councils better serve their communities.
Innovations and achievements in public transport will be celebrated at the second annual CiTTi Awards on 21 November 2023 at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms in London. Visit www.cittiawards.co.uk to learn more about this unmissable event for the UK’s transportation sector – and to book your table today!