Scrap the ban on new Council-owned bus companies!

PRESS RELEASE Monday, 14 March 2022

A Year on from the Government’s “Bus Back Better” strategy paper, it’s time to say:



Sheffield TUC supports the “WE OWN IT” petition, to be launched on their website on Tuesday 15th March:

 “It’s time to end the senseless ban on Councils setting up their own bus companies” said Martin Mayer, Secretary of Sheffield Trade Union Council. “Introduced by the Tory Government in 2017, this ideological ban on new public ownership flies in the face of all the evidence that existing publicly owned bus companies – like Reading, Nottingham and Edinburgh – provide the best bus services in the country. Instead of syphoning off millions in profits to pay greedy shareholders, they’re investing in the most modern bus fleets, keeping fares low and providing a return to the Council coffers!”

“It’s a year since the Government launched their “Bus Back Better” strategy paper which gave powers to Local Authorities like in South Yorkshire to take back control of their bus services via franchising,” said Martin Mayer “which we welcome. But that still means contracting out the service to private operators rather than running it ourselves. So profit will go to shareholders – not back into the bus services.”

The Government’s 2021 “Bus Back Better” strategy paper says “We will review whether it

remains right that local authorities cannot set up new bus companies. The Bus Services Act 2017 prevents further municipal (that is, local authority-owned) bus companies being set up from scratch. While this is not an absolute barrier, as Local Authorities can already purchase an existing bus or coach company, we believe this part of the legislation is ripe for review. There are only a handful of municipal bus companies at present, but there are some strongly performing examples among them. See pages 49 & 50:

 “Reading Buses is owned by Reading Borough Council and has been transporting passengers for over one hundred years. It has one of the youngest and most environmentally friendly fleets in the UK, and in the Autumn 2019 Transport Focus Bus Passenger Survey, Reading

Buses’ passenger satisfaction score was 92%18. Bus usage has grown through consistent partnership working between the Council and bus company, resulting in Reading having the second highest bus use in England, outside London, per head of population in 2019/20 – with an average of 137.5 annual bus trips per person. Total bus use in Reading borough had grown to over 22m journeys in 2018/19 before the pandemic, an increase of almost 40% in the last 6 years” Bus Back Better page 49.

“We welcome the decision earlier this month by S. Yorks Mayor Dan Jarvis and the four Council leaders to finally agree to investigate franchising – after a lot of hard campaigning by Better Buses South Yorkshire and others!” said Martin Mayer. “But the real benefits of taking back control of our buses won’t be realised until we can take back ownership as well. Then we really can run our buses for the people, not for profit!”

“The Government’s own strategy paper asks if it’s time to review whether the 2017 ban should be reviewed? Sheffield TUC, We Own it and Better Buses South Yorkshire say “Yes, it is! Scrap this senseless ban now!


For comment please contact Martin Mayer, Secretary Sheffield TUC on 0776 1078482

Fran Postlethwaite, Better Buses South Yorkshire can be contacted on

Matthew Topham from We Own it can be contacted on