Public spending on buses not down by half in a decade

20 November 2019
What was claimed

Buses have been cut by nearly half.

Our verdict

This is referring to a report which found that local authority spending in England and Wales on bus services had fallen by 45% from 2010/11 to 2017/18 (without adjusting for inflation). But this ignores a larger chunk of government spending which goes directly to commercial bus companies. That fell by 19% across England (excluding London) between 2009/10 and 2018/19.

"Our buses have been cut back by nearly half"

Siân Berry, 19 November 2019

The final guest on ITV’s leaders’ interviews last night was Green Party co-leader Siân Berry, who claimed that “our buses have been cut back by nearly half.”

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This claim doesn’t include all public funding for buses

The Green Party told us this refers to what has happened to councils’ bus budgets over the last decade.

Specifically, a 2018 report by the Campaign for Better Transport found that, between 2010/11 and 2017/18, local authorities’ “supported bus budgets in England and Wales have been cut by £182 million - a 45 per cent reduction”. Once you factor in inflation, the fall is 51%.

This refers to local authority spending on bus services. But that’s not all the public money that goes into bus services.

A larger chunk of funding goes directly from central government towards supporting commercially-run services. 

More recent estimates suggest the overall fall is less than half

A more recent report from the Campaign for Better Transport looked at both local authority spending and central government funding. It found that local authority spending on buses in England, excluding London, fell by £162 million (43%) between 2009/10 and 2018/19, after adjusting for inflation. 

It also found that central government funding, between 2009/10 to 2017/18 across the same area, had fallen by £234 million, or 19%.

So the central government spend, which is a bigger pot of money, (worth over £1 billion in 2009/10, compared with £381 million of local government spending), has fallen by far less than 50%. 

Most funding for bus services comes from fares

Even then, it’s worth mentioning that fares are a bigger part of bus funding than public funding, making up 59% of bus operator revenue in 2017/18 across England excluding London. This has increased from 52% in 2009/10.

Looking more directly at what’s happened to bus services, the number of journeys taken in Great Britain fell from 5.2 billion in 2009/10 to 4.8 billion in 2017/18, a fall of 7%.

The number of miles a year travelled by local buses in Great Britain is down 10% since 2009/10.

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