A COUNCILLOR has hit back at a decision to prevent local authorities from running bus services.

At Dorset County Council’s full council meeting councillors voted against a motion, asking to challenge Clause 21 of the Bus Services Bill.

The Bus Services Bill currently passing through Parliament includes Clause 21 that will effectively “prohibit a local authority from forming a company for the purposes of providing a local bus service”.

Cllr Ros Kayes, who put the motion forward, argued that if the clause was passed, it could have a profound impact on county-run schools transport.

Cllr Kayes said: “This is utter folly. They have simply kicked the issue into the long grass by referring it to a committee which won’t consider the issues until January - two months after the third reading of the bill.

“The opportunity offered by the Combined Authority would allow us to become a transport authority which could set up its own social enterprise to run buses. Examples of where this has happened in the UK have led to better quality buses and more passengers. Conservative councillors complain all the time about cuts to services in their rural areas, and then vote like lemmings to support them.

“I’m shocked that they will not challenge this pernicious clause which would tie Dorset’s hands and prevent us from providing a sustainable, economically viable public transport system into the future.”

The motion was seconded by Janet Dover, county councillor for Colehill and Stapehill.

The report read that the council noted Clause 21 ‘might have profound implications both for the proposed Combined Authority in seeking Local Transport Authority powers and in DCC’s ability to support small community transport schemes with its own fleet as is currently happening in Southill and Portland’.

It also noted that polling by We Own It found that a 57 per cent of the public oppose Clause 21, whilst just 22 per cent support it.

Cllr Peter Finney, Dorset County Council’s Cabinet member for environment, infrastructure and highways, said: “Dorset County Council is taking a holistic approach to transport in Dorset, working with commercial operators and communities and making best use of our own vehicles to help people in Dorset live independently and support our economy. As part of this, we are committed to supporting the development of community transport links, which can help meet local needs and prevent rural isolation.

“Our interpretation of Clause 21 of the Bus Services Bill was that it did not stop us using our own vehicles to provide local journeys as part of the overall mix of transport options. The Local Government Association has confirmed to us that Clause 21 only related to the formation of new municipal bus companies, which we have no plans to create.”