Council chiefs unveil transport demands at annual conference


Full central funding of concessionary fares schemes, devolved local management of the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) and pooled funding for roads maintenance are three key asks from council chiefs ahead of the July Spending Review.

Published today at the Local Government Association's (LGA) annual conference in Harrogate, the report A shared commitment claims councils could face a £9.5bn funding gap by 2020.

LGA chairman Cllr Gary Porter called for 'a more trusted partnership between central and local government' to prevent the funding crisis.

In tackling the £12bn local roads repair backlog for instance, councils called for 'joined up' co-commissioning with Highways England.

The boundary between strategic and local roads 'can at times be unclear, especially in the case of dual carriageways' the report states. In such cases, decisions should be taken collectively, with any savings resulting from this 'devolution' being used for local road maintenance with no overall impact on the national exchequer.

The LGA report states concessionary fare scheme funding has fallen by 27% between 2010/11 and 2014/15, while costs have risen by 5%.

The result is that councils have had to divert funding from other local bus services in order to fill the gap. It argues the only other option would be to let councils manage the accessibility of the scheme on the basis of local priorities within a looser but shared set of national outcomes.

On BSOG, council bosses want to ensure that commercially viable bus routes are not supported by public money, with public subsidies better targeted at those that may not be commercially viable.

It stresses that 70% of councils have cut funding for buses and that, since 2010, over 2,000 services have been cut, altered or withdrawn entirely. In response, it wants to see devolution of the grant to local level.

The LGA believes that its proposals are 'fiscally balanced' over the life of the current parliament, and will deliver 'directly cashable' savings of nearly £2bn by the end of it.

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