Tories slammed by Labour over axed bus routes in northern England and the Midlands

From Morning Star: Bus passenger numbers have plummeted by millions in northern England and the Midlands as a result of routes being axed because of Tory austerity, Labour has said.

The party revealed its analysis of government figures as shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald and shadow minister for buses Matt Rodda visited Northampton.

Since 2010 bus passenger numbers have fallen by seven million a year in both England’s north-west and in the east Midlands, by five million in Yorkshire & Humber, by four million in the north-east and by three million in the west Midlands.

The figures show that the number of routes is projected to be cut by nearly 5,250 nationally by 2022.

[Read full article on Morning Star website…]

Bus services in ‘crisis’ as cash-starved councils cut funding, campaigners warn

From The Guardian: Campaigners have called for the government to act to help dwindling bus services, as a report showed council funding had almost halved since 2010.

Budgets to subsidise routes were reduced by another £20m last year and 188 services were cut, according to the Campaign for Better Transport.

Its Buses in Crisis report found that squeezed local authorities across England and Wales had taken £182m away from supported bus services over the decade, affecting more than 3,000 bus routes.

Council funding has preserved funding for services, particularly in rural areas, that private firms have deemed unviable, and where no alternative public transport exists, accounting for more than one in five journeys. But most either cut funding – or spent nothing – last year.

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English councils warn ‘worst is yet to come’ on cuts

From The Guardian: England’s county councils have warned ministers that the “worst is yet come” over cuts to services and that several authorities risk going bust unless steps are taken to shore up budgets.

Only an emergency injection of funds next year to counter a growing financial “black hole” would head off severe cuts to services and potential unrest among MPs, the County Councils Network said.

It said councils faced having to make “truly unpalatable” cuts to key services such as social care, refuse disposal, librariesSure Start centres and roads maintenance while putting up Council Tax bills and introducing new charges.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Chris Grayling ‘passing the buck’ for trains chaos

From The Times: Industry sources have accused the Tory transport secretary Chris Grayling of “scapegoating” train firms and Network Rail, while failing to acknowledge his own department’s shortcomings may have contributed to the cancellation of thousands of trains.

[Read full article on The Times website…] [paywalled, but free registration allows access to two articles per month]

Theresa May told to ‘get a grip’ on rail crisis by regional news titles

From The Guardian: Theresa May is coming under pressure over the rail chaos in northern England as some of the area’s largest newspapers join together to demand that she “get a grip” on the government’s response.

The news came after the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, faced calls to resign as he was questioned by MPs and announced an inquiry into the botched timetabling changes that have caused delays and cancellations for hundreds of thousands of people.

As he came under increasing pressure in the Commons, titles that collectively sell an average of more than 300,000 copies per edition said Grayling “should take accountability”, while the prime minister should “should take a personal grip of resolving the crisis”.

The 25 titles, which are owned by various groups and include the Manchester Evening News, the Liverpool Echo and the Yorkshire Post, called on May to lead an emergency summit in Downing Street this week to find a solution to the crisis, and urged a review of rail franchising. They also urged Northern Rail to clarify its plans for a compensation scheme for passengers who have been hit by crippling disruption.

[Read full story on the Guardian website…]

Olympic success under threat from funding cuts, warns UK Sport chair

From The Guardian: Dame Katherine Grainger, the chair of UK Sport, has warned that Britain’s extraordinary record of Olympic and Paralympic success could be threatened by budget cuts.

Speaking at the launch of a three-month consultation into the future funding of elite sport, Grainger admitted that “the suggestion is very strongly that finances will get tighter and tighter” after 2020, with no guarantee that the government will continue to underwrite the estimated £25m annual shortfall from falling national lottery sales.

“We have seen an amazing injection of money since 1996 and I am one of the athletes who have hugely benefited,” said Grainger, a five-times Olympic rowing medallist. “If the money was cut to such an extent that we couldn’t build around sports and athletes, the reality is that success would be affected.”

Many smaller sports which are not funded, such as wheelchair rugby and badminton, are desperately hoping it will lead to UK Sport softening its “no compromise” approach to medals.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Dozens of British sports concerned about a future without central Government support

From Loughborough University: Two years into a four-year plan to cut funding for UK sports, new research shows that non-commercially driven sports will struggle to survive without central Government support.

Following an announcement in 2016 that money given to UK sports will be reduced over four years, Dr Argyro Elisavet Manoli has assessed the current relationship between those organisations and their funding bodies – mainly UK Sport and Sport England – which distribute Government and National Lottery cash.

There are 46 different sports represented by non-commercially driven national bodies including everything from lacrosse, mountaineering and wrestling to archery, angling and baseball.

The study found that funding from the Central Government is vital for both the short and the long-term future of these sports.

[Read full article on Loughborough University website…]

Councils forced to sell off parks, buildings and art to fund basic services

From The Guardian: Analysis shows the financial predicament facing councils across England. Government funding has fallen by nearly 50% since 2010. Combined with increased demand for adult and children’s social care and homelessness services, as well as paying higher national insurance contributions for staff, growing numbers of unitary and county councils are relying on their reserves to balance their budgets.

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Poster from Hackney Council on government funding cuts

#ToryBritain #ToryCutsToCouncils #Hackney

Posted by Stop The Tories Channel on Thursday, March 8, 2018

Cuts to youth services lead to rise in crime warn councils

From Localgov: Government funding cuts have served to undermine years of work by local authorities in tackling youth crime, council chiefs warn.

In 2010/11 Whitehall funding for youth offending teams (YOTs) stood at £145m. By 2017/18 it had been slashed to £72m.

These cuts have been made despite evidence YOTs have been effective at preventing young people from getting involved in crime.

The latest Ministry of Justice figures reveal an 11% rise in offences involving knives or offensive weapons by young people, compared with a 10% reduction for adults since March 2012.

The LGA warned this increase is the result of cuts to YOTs and to the Government’s youth justice grant. This is made worse by funding gaps in other areas, such as children’s services, which are forcing councils to divert money away from preventative measures like YOTs.

[Read full article on Localgov…]

Council tax rises on the way as local authorities try to stay afloat

From The Guardian: Local authorities in England are teetering on the edge of a financial crisis, with most planning to increase council tax from April while continuing to cut services, a survey has found.

The annual finance survey from the Local Government Information Unit thinktank (LGIU) comes days after Northamptonshire county council became the first town hall in two decades to declare effective bankruptcy. Severe financial pressures had left the council unable deliver a workable budget.

The LGIU warned that the Northamptonshire crisis was potentially the “tip of the iceberg”, with four-fifths of councils concerned about their financial sustainability amid uncertainty over funding and the accelerating costs of social care.

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Chris Grayling criticised for blaming rail delays on ‘militant unions’

From The Guardian: Chris Grayling, the Tory transport secretary, has been accused of passing the buck over severe rail disruption on Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern trains, for which he blamed staff shortages caused by “militant unions”.

A report from the National Audit Office criticises the government’s management of the UK’s largest #rail franchise, held by Govia Thameslink, and concludes that policy decisions have had a negative impact on millions of passengers.

The report says Department for Transport officials failed to grasp the potential impact on passengers of combining an increase in capacity, targets to improve services and the increase in driver-only operated trains, which led to strikes by union members.

However, Chris Grayling said blame for the disruption should primarily be shouldered by the unions for their decision to take industrial action.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

The Guardian view on rail privatisation: going off the tracks

Editorial from The Guardian: There are few more annoying issues for the great British public than their railways. While some cities and towns have seen stations spruced up, the public suffer from often late, expensive and frequently overcrowded train services. While the cack-handed rollout of infrastructure improvements has led to cancellations and delays on the network, commuters saw ticket prices rise at twice the rate of their wages between 2010 and 2016. Tuesday’s news that rail passengers will be hit by the largest fare hikes in five years next month will do nothing but confirm the view that the public are being taken for a ride. The situation, it seems, is one where private companies reap the benefits, while passengers bear the costs.

There is a good case to return more train operating companies to state hands. Three in four voters, disillusioned by high prices and poor service, back renationalising the railways. Many train lines in Britain are run by state-backed European rail firms. So why not in Britain?

[Read full editorial on Guardian website…]

Arts hit with £14m local funding cuts in 2016/17

From The Stage: Local authority funding for national portfolio organisations has fallen by £14 million in the past year, according to new data from Arts Council England.

The 649 applicable organisations in ACE’s portfolio received £113.3 million in funding from local councils in 2016/17, down 11% from £127.5 million the previous year.

[Read full article on The Stage website…]

Tory councillors ridiculed as they are drowned out by traffic noise while arguing against cycle path

From Cycling Weekly: An attempt by Conservative activists to promote their campaign against a new Cycle Superhighway in south-west London has somewhat backfired after a video posted online showed three men struggling to be heard above the noise of passing traffic.

While the three men talk about how they think the segregated cycle path will “destroy the character” of the “village high street”, they are drowned out by the sound of passing cars, vans and lorries, with Cllr McGregor’s introduction also interrupted by what sounds to be a truck reversing just off camera.

The video was picked up by Guardian writer Peter Walker, who said that you “genuinely couldn’t make it up”, before other Twitter users, including a certain Ned Boulting, weighed in with their thoughts on the video, also pointing out that getting more people on bikes would reduce pollution in the area and, as shown by studies elsewhere in London, provide increased trade for local businesses.

[Read full article on Cycling Weekly…]

Impact of austerity leaves schoolchildren at risk of missing out on music

From SWLondoner: Following the austerity measures implemented by the coalition government, funding for the arts was curtailed, and access to music education has become increasingly difficult.

The 2010 comprehensive spending review announced a 30% cut the Arts Council England budget. These cuts placed significant strain on our cultural organisations, including theatres, orchestras, music venues and art galleries.

Our most prestigious institutions, including the National Theatre, Southbank Centre, Royal opera House, and the Royal Shakespeare Company, are set to lose £2.5million of Arts Council funding per year between them.

Yet the impacts are more widespread; with cuts to local council budgets, less money is being spent on grassroots music education.

While 85% of parents state that music education is beneficial for their children, 70% say that the cost is prohibitive.

The National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain stated that 70% of its members were privately educated, which underlines that access remains an ongoing challenge.

[Read full article on SWLondoner…]

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