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TRANSPORT union RMT warned of a looming “cuts disaster” today, after research revealed nearly seven in 10 councillors think that funding reductions for local bus services are inevitable.
The union called for “radical action” after its survey of cross-party councillors in England found that 67 per cent believe that their council will soon be forced to cut vital routes due to a lack of government funding.
A whopping 84 per cent of councillors have concerns about the impact of potential cuts on elderly and disabled people, job security, inequalities, disadvantaged communities and climate change, the data also shows.
RMT slammed the deregulated bus market, which sees cash-strapped councils banned from setting up their own municipal bus companies while being forced to subsidise routes deemed unprofitable by commercial operators.
Ministers’ recently published National Bus Strategy committed to reviewing this ban, a move RMT said is needed urgently as many operators would seek to “maximise profits” when the Covid-19 bus services support grant comes to an end this summer.
General secretary Mick Cash said local bus services are a “lifeline for many and have a vital role to play in connecting communities, preventing social isolation and reducing carbon emissions.
“Yet, [this survey] shows that unless the government provides sufficient funding and certainty for local authorities, many will be forced to cut services, which will be devastating for local communities,” he warned.
“Bus use has already been hit by the pandemic and it is clear that the commercial operators will have no qualms slashing services once emergency funding [ends].
“Our bus network should be run as a fundamental public service, not for commercial gain.”
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