Assessment of bus franchising option for South Yorkshire
Our Cabinet will be asked next week to give their approval to enter the first stages of assessing options for delivering bus services through a South Yorkshire-wide franchise arrangement.
If approved, the recommendation to support the assessment of bus franchising by SYMCA will then be put before all councillors at our Full Council meeting on Thursday, February 24.
The recommendation is to support the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) proposal to issue a notice of intention to prepare a formal assessment of a proposed franchising scheme. The report also recommends that the council be granted a formal opportunity to influence and shape what the assessment considers.
The cost of the assessment process, estimated at £5m, will be funded by SYMCA and therefore at no cost to Barnsley Council. It will require bus operators to provide information about their services to help councils and the SYMCA assess the viability of a franchise.
The report highlights that if a franchise arrangement were to go ahead as a result of the assessment, there are likely to be further substantial set-up costs over a long period. It’s expected to take between six and ten years to complete the entire process.
In addition, there will be significant costs involved in actually running the franchise. These costs could be as much as £200m and would potentially have a significant impact on council services and taxpayers. This is why Cabinet will be asked to recommend giving the council the right to withdraw from the process if appropriate funding cannot be found.
Cllr Chris Lamb, Cabinet Spokesperson for Environment and Transport, said: “We know how important bus services are to local people; they play a crucial role in connecting our communities and helping grow our economy and create jobs.
“We’re entering into this process now because if there is an opportunity to make significant improvements to our local public transport offer, we want to do whatever we possibly can to grasp that. If we stand still, the borough’s economy will standstill, and we’re determined that our borough will have better homes, jobs, services and transport links.
“At the same time, we need to be very clear that there are potentially huge costs involved in this and we must make sure we only enter into a franchise model if we can be absolutely sure it can be funded long term.
“It’s important to fully understand these risks through the assessment process. If this is unaffordable then we reserve the right to withdraw from the process to protect residents’ services and tax bills.
“However if the government does provide the funding, it’s important the assessment is in place so that we are ready to take it forward.
“We need to approach this carefully and cautiously, and that’s what I’ll be recommending to Cabinet and to Full Council.”
You can read the full Cabinet report here.