A few constituents have contacted me about local bus services.

In many areas, including across the High Peak, buses are essential. They enable people to get to work, to school, to the doctor's or to hospital, and can drastically improve quality of life. The Government has a role to play in supporting local bus services, and continued investment in buses is essential.

In the 2015 Spending Review, the Government committed to protecting the Bus Service Operator's Grant. This amounted to approximately £250 million last year, with around £40 million of this paid directly to English local authorities to help deliver bus services. This central funding has also been ring-fenced this financial year. The Government also funds almost £1 billion of local authority spending on concessionary bus passes every year, which the Government is committed to maintaining in this Parliament.

Bus projects and infrastructure are also important, so I am pleased that around £200 million is expected to be spent on bus infrastructure schemes up to 2020. This builds on the work of the Coalition Government, which allocated around £300 million for major bus projects.

Ministers are also taking forward the Bus Services Bill, to provide local authorities with the means to improve local bus services. Local authorities will be able to set required standards of service with bus providers, including ticketing and the frequencies of services. It will also give powers to franchise services to combined authorities with directly elected Mayors to allow them to take control of their services, as Transport for London does in London.

Some concern has been raised about Clause 21 of the Bill, which prohibits a relevant local authority from forming a company for the purposes of providing a local bus service. Existing municipal bus companies are not, however, affected by this clause.

This was discussed at both second reading and in committee in the House of Lords. The Government's position is that authorities, with the knowledge of the local area and needs, and control over other aspects such as local roads and parking policies, are well placed to help shape and influence services that are provided, with private-sector bus operators using their operational experience to deliver services on the road. The Government believes that the commissioning and provision of bus services should be kept separate, which will help ensure the strengths of the private sector are retained.

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