Precept payments for buses criticised
A Mayor’s plans to up a Mayoral Precept in council tax to support bus services has come up against criticism.
Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA), Dr Nik Johnson, highlighted that the hike has been made in a scenario of ‘unsustainable pressures’ on public transport. Last year, the local authority stepped in at short notice and saved 23 bus routes that the operator said was no longer capable of running.
Dr Nik Johnson said: “Our choice was either see communities cut off from the rest of the region or find a way to invest in saving what for many is an essential public service. That’s why we introduced the £1 per month Mayoral Precept.”
The Mayoral Precept was introduced in April 2023 and is an additional charge added to council tax bills.
He says the pressures facing the industry have ‘gotten worse’. He said: “At the same time, demand for better public transport continues to grow as people rightly want to be able to rely on buses, safe in the knowledge that they can build things like a working day, medical appointments, or the school-run around them.”
The Mayor has proposed to increase the average levy from £12 a year to £36, which would raise around £11m.
“My argument is that for less than 10p a day per average household the combined authority can invest £11m per year in our bus network” – Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA)
Dr Nik Johnson said: “My argument is that for less than 10p a day per average household the combined authority can invest £11m per year in our bus network, enabling more routes and more frequent services, serving far more people more conveniently than is currently the case. What’s more, this will accompany a huge reduction in the price of travel for everyone under the age of 25, with bus fares cut in half from £2 to £1.”
He explained that ‘we can’t afford to do nothing’: “To me that’s not responsible government. As I see it, the collective benefits of a better bus network vastly outweigh the modest cost to households with quality public transport helping unclog our roads, clean up our air, and massively increase equal access to the wealth of social and economic opportunities that our region presents.”
The proposal has met criticism from Anna Bailey, the Conservative leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council. She has been reported as saying she does not support the hike in council tax, saying a 200% increase in the council tax precept is not the right thing to do in the current economic climate.