At the Council meeting tonight and in response to the Liverpool City Region’s current public consultation on the potential for bus reform, Cllr Graham Morgan proposed a Notice of Motion supporting the Metro Mayor’s bus franchising proposals for the Liverpool City Region.
The findings of the Liverpool City Region’s “Big Bus Debate” showed that residents often found the City Region’s current bus system to be unreliable, expensive, and too difficult to navigate. This aligns with feedback gathered by the Council when it was developing the Knowsley 2030 Strategy and The Knowsley Offer.
Bus services in Knowsley, and other areas, have suffered as a result of the Government’s decision to deregulate the bus networks outside of London in the 1980s. This has been compounded by over decade of national austerity, and Knowsley has been one of the worse affected areas in the country in terms of Government funding cuts.
Within this context, the Council welcomes the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s ambition to increase public sector influence over bus provision. Making public transport easier, greener, more reliable and more affordable will deliver huge benefit to local communities. The Liverpool City Region has identified “Franchising” as its preferred model which means that there is a clear vision and ambition for the future.
The financial costs and risks associated with adopting a “Franchising” model are estimated to be £340m overall (based on 2020/21 prices).
Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, said “Given the costs associated with bus reforms, the Government must ensure that this is adequately funded and not think that they can pass the costs on to local authorities through the Transport Levy or to local residents via the Mayor Precept when they pay their Council Tax.
“We have been managing some of the most severe funding cuts (50% of our funding) over the last ten years, as well as the additional costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of living crisis and more recently inflationary pressures due to the Government crashing the national economy.
“Without Government funding, the costs of franchising would fall to the Liverpool City Region to fund. This could impact on what services Councils such as Knowsley would be able to provide for our residents or, worse still, see Council Tax bills increase – something I’m keen to avoid given the current cost of living crisis and rising prices. If the Government is truly committed to Levelling Up our region, what better way could there be for them to demonstrate this.”
“The Council firmly believes that the ambitious bus reform agenda and increased public sector influence over bus provision is most welcome on the basis that this approach can improve public transport provision for Knowsley’s residents and businesses.”
In supporting the Notice of Motion this evening, Knowsley Council has publicly put on the record its support for the Liverpool City Region’s ambitious bus reform agenda via Franchising and has, in doing so called upon the Government to step forward and ensure that the Liverpool City Region is suitably resourced to deliver this critical agenda.