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The Somerset Guardian, 4th October 2023

As the bus row between the Council and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) continues, I was heartened to hear from Simon Jupp, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Transport, who wrote to Members of Parliament this week announcing that the Government has spent a further £80 million of taxpayers’ money to protect essential bus services and allow local authorities to make travel improvements in their communities.

This comes from the £80 million Bus Services Improvement Plan 2024-25 fund, of which there have been three rounds, building on the £80 million spent in 2023-24 and £1 billion spent in 2022 as well as a further £140 million revealed in May from the extension of the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG). This takes the total to £300 million across England into 2025.

To help people with the cost of living and save on everyday travel costs, the extension of the £2 fare cap has cut travel costs, particularly in rural areas like North East Somerset, where, as we know since cuts to various services, buses are crucial to get around for those who cannot drive or do not have access to a vehicle. Many people rely on bus services to go to work, go shopping, attend important appointments or to see family and friends so, in theory, these extra sums ought to support communities.

In practice, we know that Government funds do not translate directly to extra aid to support constituents. It continues to pour money into North East Somerset via WECA and the Council yet vital services have been cut, which does not add up. We need answers and we need someone to take responsibility instead of passing the buck. Most importantly, we need the bus services to be reinstated so that people can live their lives in the way that the Government enables them to with constituents' hard-earned money.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance:

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