Today the Leicester Mercury reported that “City misses out in bid for bus travel millions” (April 5). Yet this negative outcome regarding government funding for our city’s public transport was not entirely unexpected, because as I wrote in February:
“Government documents leaked to the press last month make it clear that “the budget for the ‘transformation’ of buses – a pot from which local regions can bid for funds – has now shrunk [from £3 bn] to just £1.4bn for the next three years.” And it is very clear that most local authorities will be unable to rely on this funding as “the amount of funding bids submitted by 53 out of 79 local transport authorities from the extra funding pot is already more than £7bn. This suggests the total is likely to exceed £9bn, against a total available of £1.4bn.”
As it turned out the available money turned out to be even less, just £1.2bn.
Thus, despite Leicester City Labour Party’s high hopes that they would benefit from the Tories underwhelming handouts, the City Council’s hopes have now been well and truly dashed. But while Council leaders in other parts of the country responded to the Tories latest withholding of much-needed funding with outrage, Leicester’s Labour Council leaders decided that quietude was a more fitting response, which meant that they didn’t even bother to give an official response to the local press.
The local media were therefore left in the strange position of not even knowing how much money Leicester City Council had been hoping to receive from the government to help improve our buses.
But had the media done a little research they would have found that the answer to this question can be located in the Council’s recent “Bus Services Improvement Plan.” In this document we can see that the Council had been hoping that the government would provide them with somewhere between £41m and £51m depending on whether they the Council had managed to implement their regressive Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) scheme. As the Council’s bus plan noted: the “‘ask’ to DfT [Department for Transport] is for £31m-£38m of capital and £10m-£13m of revenue, the range dependent on whether the Council can implement WPL by 2023.”
Despite being repeatedly disappointed by the government, strangely the City Council remain full of hope that the Tories will come to their aid. In stark contrast, workers in the city have no reason to hope that the Council will ever do much for them. This is because Leicester’s Labour Council seem intent on implementing a regressive tax on 26,000 workers (4,000 of which work in the NHS) in order to fund public transport when what they should be doing is building a mass campaign to forcibly stop the Tories from attacking ordinary people.
But for the time being the City Council can count their lucky blessings that they have the local media on their side, as today’s Mercury article, after outlining the Council’s bad luck, then went on to promote the merits (“grand plans”) of the Council’s proposed Workplace Parking Levy. A levy that is now being opposed by the local trade union movement through the launch of the Campaign Against Leicester’s Workplace Parking Levy. For details of this campaign see:
Elsewhere, Campaign for Better Transport responded to the government’s lack of funding by noting: “Today’s announcement means that the majority of local authorities that submitted bids were unsuccessful and will not receive funds to deliver bus service improvement plans. Even those that have received funding will not have received all the money they requested and will therefore have to cherry-pick which improvements they can deliver. Campaign for Better Transport is warning that, with an estimated £10 billion needed by local authorities to improve bus services, the money awarded today falls woefully short.” (April 4, 2022)