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Council urges Mayor to consider public control of buses

Sheffield Council's backing of 'franchising assessment' will put pressure on candidates to form a strong position on transport in the lead-up to the mayoral election in May 2022.

Stagecoach bus 22639 MAN Alexander Dennis Enviro300 YN08 JDU in Sheffield 24 March 2009 1
Ultra7 (Wikimedia Commons)

Sheffield Council has voiced its support for the South Yorkshire Mayor using their powers to look at how buses in the region can be taken into public control.

An amendment to the ‘COP26: Now is the Time to Act’ motion, which passed at a Council meeting yesterday (18 November), says that under the current Mayor Dan Jarvis, the South Yorkshire Combined Authority has made “no progress in moving towards public control of buses through franchising.”

Franchising gives the Mayor and local authorities control over routes, timetables and fares, with each route then put out to tender. It’s the model in place in London, as well as many European cities.

Yesterday’s motion states Sheffield Council’s support for a “statutory assessment of franchising” by the Mayor’s office within six months.

Current Mayor Dan Jarvis chose not to look formally at franchising in June, in favour of forming an Enhanced Partnership – an agreement between local authorities and bus companies to improve services.

At the time, Jarvis told Now Then that he was “seriously looking at franchising”, but the Department for Transport confirmed that his office could explore both options until April 2022, when a decision between the two must be made.

Dan Jarvis, who is also Labour MP for Barnsley Central, is stepping down from the position of Mayor of South Yorkshire in May 2022.

Yesterday Now Then obtained the list of Labour candidates for the role – among them Cllr Mazher Iqbal, who was recently reinstated to his role in the Council Executive after a lengthy internal investigation regarding allegations he broke the Members’ Code of Conduct.

The six other candidates for the Labour nomination include former Sheffield cabinet member Lewis Dagnall and Oliver Coppard, who came close to unseating Nick Clegg as Labour candidate in Sheffield Hallam in 2015.

Sheffield Council’s motion on bus franchising will put pressure on the mayoral candidates to form a strong position on transport in the region. The Mayor’s office also has powers over skills and employment, and land and housing.

The news comes as campaigners said South Yorkshire’s buses were “stuck in the slow lane.”

A transparency request to the Department for Transport revealed this week that Labour administrations in Manchester, Liverpool and West Yorkshire have all initiated a process known as a Public Control Pathway to eventually introduce a franchising system – while South Yorkshire has not.

Matthew Topham of Better Buses For South Yorkshire, a campaign coordinated by We Own It, told Now Then that South Yorkshire’s buses “used to be the envy of the world.”

“Across the UK, speak to anyone over 40 and they will probably recall marvelling at our 5 pence fares, frequent routes and reliable buses,” he said.

Topham added that the motion from Sheffield Council was a “huge step forward.”

“I hope that other councils across the region will stand up for their residents and demand that the process to bring our buses into public control begins immediately.”

Barnsley Council will reportedly vote on a similar proposal next week.

by Sam Walby (he/him)
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