72.1 Councillor P Smart, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Transport, explained that bus services in most of the UK, including Ipswich, were run on a commercial basis, with operators required to compete rather than co-operate.
72.2 Councillor Smart explained that councils were allowed to subsidise socially necessary services, although the statutory duty to consider supporting services lay with Suffolk County Council, who were funded to do this. Councillor Smart noted that as Suffolk County Council had the responsibility to consider subsidies they had been informed of the service changes made by First Buses in August 2018 and so would have had time to make arrangements to support a service before residents were affected. Councillor Smart explained that Ipswich Borough Council only found out about the changes at the same time as residents and so did not have an opportunity to do this.
72.3 Councillor Smart reported that councils were restricted in what they were allowed to subsidise, and couldn’t, for example, pay to increase the frequency on an existing route, or create a new route which follows a largely similar route to an existing commercial one. It was however possible to subsidise a service to run additional services at times when it would not otherwise run.
72.4 Councillor Smart noted that he had suggested to First Buses that they run services via Lindbergh Road at Off-Peak times, however, they were not willing to consider this. Councillor Smart had therefore looked at the possibility of subsidising the Number 4 bus to run on Sundays and Bank Holidays on an experimental basis. Suffolk County Council had been asked to provide £5,000 but were, in Councillor Smart’s view, unlikely to agree to do this. Ipswich Borough Council’s North East and South East Area Committees were being asked for funding as the residents of those areas would benefit from the bus being run.
72.5 A resident asked about the condition of the bus shelter used by the Number 4 at Tower Ramparts and about the bus stop at St Augustine’s Church, noting that it was now difficult to cross Felixstowe Road. Councillor Smart agreed to look into the condition of the stop at Tower Ramparts and explained that the bus stop at St Augustine’s Church had been moved as a result of a Suffolk County Council scheme and that he agreed that it had been badly placed.
72.6 A number of residents raised the impact which the changes to the First Bus route 76 had had on their lives, including people not being able to go where they wanted and significant amounts of money being spent on taxi fares. Councillor Barber agreed that the Borough Council would continue to make the case to First Buses for returning buses to Lindbergh Road.
72.7 Councillor Cook said that he felt the changes to bus services were a catastrophe of competition and that he was disappointed that Suffolk County Council did not spend sufficient of its public transport budget on buses in Ipswich to ensure that residents had the services they needed. Councillor Cook commented that it was wrong that Ipswich Borough Council, which neither had the budget, nor the responsibility, for public transport, was being forced to subsidise bus routes.
72.8 Councillor Harsant noted that Suffolk County Council had not yet decided whether or not to contribute to the service in 2019-20. Councillor Harsant was disappointed that it was proposed to use Area Committee funding to support this service when other subsidies had been paid for from the Council’s general budget. Councillor Harsant said that, despite this, she supported the recommendation of the report as the bus service was essential for residents.
72.9 Councillor Smart noted that he would rather not be using Area Committee, or indeed Ipswich Borough Council, funding to fund this experimental route but that as Suffolk County Council were not willing to support the Number 4, there was no better alternative. Councillor Smart reported that the sequence of events had meant that the public transport budget for the year had been allocated and so alternatives had to be found.
72.10 Councillor Knowles said that the system for the organisation of bus routes in England was not fit for purpose as it left communities without services which it took councils months to replace.
72.11 SCC Councillor Gaylard said that she realised the importance of the Number 4 running on Sundays and Bank Holidays and explained that both she and Councillor Quinton had agreed to allocate £1,000 from their locality budgets to the service. SCC Councillor West said that he would also contribute from his locality budget and said that he would be happy to work with Ipswich Borough Council on putting the case for subsidising the route in 2019/20 to the relevant people at Suffolk County Council.
72.12 Councillor Harsant asked whether the contributions from the Suffolk County Councillors locality budgets would reduce the amount of funding needed from the South East Area Committee. Councillor Smart explained that the amount requested was the maximum which would be needed, but that there were still a number of figures to be finalised.
that the South East Area Committee approve funding of £6,600 and £3,300 from the South East Area Committee budgets for 2019/20 and 2020/21 respectively to subsidise the Operation of Service 4 on Sunday and Bank Holiday daytimes for an 18 month experimental period.