Slough Express

No Government bus funds for boroughs

Royal Borough/Slough: Councils ‘disappoint­ed’ to miss out

- By Kieran Bell kieranb@baylismedi­ @KieranB_BM

The Royal Borough and

Slough say they are ‘disappoint­ed’ after missing out on millions of pounds worth of Government cash to improve bus travel in the two boroughs.

A national bus strategy – Bus Back Better – was launched by the Government last year with the aim of improving this mode of transport outside of London.

Local authoritie­s across the UK were tasked with submitting a document called a Bus Service Improvemen­t Plan (BSIP) to the Department for Transport (DfT), which set out the vision for bus travel in their areas.

Both councils hoped they would be eligible for a slice of the Government’s £3billion funding pot, which was dished out to councils on Monday.

But the Royal Borough and Slough - along with neighbouri­ng Buckingham­shire – were not included on the list of cash recipients.

Nearby unitary authority Reading received £26million from the Government scheme.

A Royal Borough cabinet meeting in October was informed that the local authority had one of the lowest rates of bus use in the country.

Councillor Phil Haseler, the Royal Borough’s cabinet member for transport, said: “We’re disappoint­ed not to have been awarded any funding from the DfT to take forward plans for buses in our area. This was a competitiv­e process and we’re among many areas across England to have missed out this time.

“The DfT’s funding focuses on levelling up bus services outside of London, and unfortunat­ely the Royal Borough falls within the lowest priority category in the Levelling Up Fund priority index.

“Within our BSIP, we responded ambitiousl­y and positively to Government, aiming to achieve significan­t improvemen­ts to bus services.

“The process was driven by the DfT and was therefore broadly reliant on funding from the department.

“We will be engaging with the DfT to understand further details of its decision and will continue to work closely with operators to look at how services could be improved.”

Cllr Haseler added that despite the Government’s decision, the council was still able to ‘progress some elements’ of its BSIP using available funds, including a review of its bus network.

A Slough Council spokeswoma­n said: “In light of the council’s financial circumstan­ces, and the lingering effects of COVID-19 on bus passenger numbers, the successful delivery of the BSIP relies on external funding.

“We are therefore disappoint­ed that Slough has not been included in the first round of funding contributi­ons.

“The Slough BSIP contains a comprehens­ive programme of measures designed to improve bus services within the borough.

“Although Slough has been unsuccessf­ul in this funding round, the Government has stated that more BSIP funds may become available in due course.”

Buckingham­shire Council’s cabinet member for transport, Cllr Steven Broadbent, added that the authority was also ‘incredibly disappoint­ed’ not to receive any bus travel funding and would be seeking further guidance from the Government.

The DfT said that areas 'not showing sufficient ambition' would not be funded.

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