Tuesday, 3 July 2012

No to Brighton and Hove Bus Cuts

Cuts to bus subsidies in Brighton and Hove, adding up to a total of £230,000 and affecting 12 routes, are only the thin end of the cuts wedge. In the lead up to the budget the Greens paid £10,000 to a private organisation to run a consultation based entirely on the assumption that cuts had to be made. The online budget simulator encouraged residents to 'make the cuts themselves'. Reducing the subsidy to the bus service is only one of the results of the government imposed austerity that none of the parties, unfortunately including the Greens, are fundamentally challenging. 

A petition, initiated by Brighton Labour, is calling on the Greens to reverse the cuts to 12 subsidised routes. Labour have identified Green plans to reduce the carbon footprint and to reduce speed limits and introduce cycle lanes, as measures which could be scrapped to reinstate the bus subsidy. On the other hand scrapping bus routes not only affects those who depend on them, but is also a backward step from an environmentally friendly transport policy.

Environmental and other policies will be made to compete with each other unless the council campaigns for the government to reinstate the funding they have cut from Brighton and Hove.

As it stands each corner of the debate has attacked the other for their decisions or proposals in distributing the council budget. Both New Labour and the Greens have dismissed the idea of a fightback against the funding reduction imposed on Brighton and Hove by the Tory-Liberal Democrat government.

In other articles (click here for link) we have highlighted this lack of strategy to oppose ALL the cuts, instead of picking one service or job cut over another, a campaign needs to be started to demand the funding is returned to the city.

The prospect of such a campaign has been ruled out in advance by the Green councillors, who - despite being shown how such a campaign could be waged - have argued consistently that nothing can be done. As a result the parties are battling over the title of 'the most compassionate translation' of this government's vicious cuts.

However, also missing from this debate is the call to bring the bus service back in-house. Go Ahead, which owns Brighton and Hove Bus Company as well as Southern and SouthEastern rail, has a near monopoly on transport services in Brighton and the South East. Their bus profits came to £67m last year, with the chief executive and deputy 'earning' £1m - why can't these sums go back into improving the bus service? It is ridiculous that subsidies are paid to the Brighton and Hove Bus Company to ensure routes are properly serviced.

These routes will not be fulfilled because to do so without the subsidy is, in BH Bus Co's eyes, 'unprofitable'. Once again this demonstrates the opposing interests of providing services to the public, and meeting short-term profit aims of private companies. However neither New Labour nor the Greens are highlighting this issue, let alone doing anything about it.

Socialists call for a fully public and integrated transport system to serve the needs of the population instead of the profit greed of shareholders. As a first step the council should implement a maximum fare of £1.00 for a single journey and £2.00 for a day saver, with free bus passes for all full and part time students, apprentices and benefit claimants, and free peak time travel for existing bus pass holders. A feasibility study should be produced to establish whether the administrative and environmental savings yielded would justify abolishing fares altogether. As with other public services, the money is there within society but it is not being distributed in the interests of the majority.

We say:

  • End the subsidies to private transport companies
  • No to trading off council services and jobs against each other
  • Reject the government's cuts and fight for the lost funding
  • We need a publicly owned and controlled, properly funded and integrated transport system
  • We need a new workers party that will genuinely stand up to the government

If you agree, join the Brighton and Hove Socialist Party - info.bhsp@gmail.com