Local Government

Suffolk County Council seeks solutions to bus funding challenge

Suffolk County Council has met with representatives from Suffolk’s bus operators today to see whether they can run a number of bus services without public subsidy, following a reduction in the amount of public money available.

The meeting, involving 11 of Suffolk’s biggest bus operating companies, follows decisions taken in February 2019 on how to save £13 million from Suffolk County Council’s budget, including £340,000 from the authority’s passenger transport budget.

Of the 211 bus routes currently operating throughout Suffolk, 61 are subsidised by public money. 23 of these will have their public funding removed. This does not mean that these services will necessarily end, just that public funding is no longer affordable.

This led to a cross party policy development panel being set up to agree how decisions should be made over which services should be affected. A new, fair and thorough set of criteria was adopted in May 2019, including passenger numbers, subsidy per single ticket and integration with other services.

In 2017/18, the 23 services were responsible for 107,624 single journeys out of a total of 14.9million journeys taken across the county. This means that the services are responsible for only 0.7% of journeys per year.

We need to ensure we spend public money effectively. In reviewing these services against our new funding criteria we have had to make tough decisions. However, the implementation of this new criteria has enabled these decisions to be made in a robust and transparent way and ensures we consider key measures before making tough calls.

Councillor Mary Evans, Cabinet member for Highways, Transport and Rural Issues

Following these conversations, the county council will review the situation at the end of July 2019 before determining next steps. The council aims to have operators taking on these services on a commercial basis from the end of October.

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