Buses for people, not profit – scrap Clause 21 of the Bus Services Bill

167-Loughton-Station-cropAt the weekend we were back in Sun Street with our Saturday stall, discussing local issues but also collecting signatures for We Own It’s Clause 21 petition.

Clause 21 is part of the Bus Services Bill 2016. The Bill is currently going through the House of Lords and is, for the most part, very good.

The Bus Services Bill would allow local authorities to:

  • set maximum bus fares
  • introduce joint tickets and travel zones, so you could use one company’s tickets on another’s bus – particularly useful if you’ve got a return ticket or need to change buses during a journey
  • introduce Oyster style cards
  • set timetables and routes

That’s all good stuff which we’d definitely support, especially given the state of bus services in Epping Forest and specifically Waltham Abbey.

But there’s a fly in the ointment.

Clause 21

One of the most effective ways to do all of the above is for a local authorities to run their own bus companies. Several have done this, returning millions of pounds back to public funds which would otherwise have gone to shareholders.

Unfortunately Clause 21 of the Bus Services Bill would specifically prevent them from doing that:

21 Bus companies: limitation of powers of authorities in England

(1) A relevant authority may not, in exercise of any of its powers, form a company  for the purpose of providing a local service.

This is a truly bizarre clause to slip in there, particularly given that:

  • public ownership of buses could save £506 million each year
  • private bus companies outside London make profits of between 6% – 18% per year
  • an average of £277 million a year goes to shareholders instead of services
  • 40% of revenue to those companies comes from local authorities and national government (ie the taxpayer)

There are currently 12 publicly owned bus operators. Among them are Lothians, which returned £5.5 million to the public in 2014, and Reading, which returned £3.3 million.

What can you do?

Clause 21 makes no sense whatsoever but it’s not too late to stop it becoming part of the Bus Services Bill.

The Bill is currently with the House of Lords, with the next Committee Stage this Wednesday, 20th July.


The We Own It petition, which we were collecting signatures for on Saturday, is online here: We want buses for people not profit

Please sign and share it.

Write to a Lord

You can write directly to Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon, who  sponsored the Bill: ahmadt@parliament.uk

You can also email other Members of the House of Lords through Write to Them. This is a list of Lords who have mentioned Public Transport the most: http://efgp.org.uk/wttlordspubtran

The top few are a good place to start.

The House of Lords has been surprisingly good recently so they might well remove Clause 21. However, if they don’t we can still lobby for its removal when the Bill gets back to the House of Commons.

In the meantime, please sign the petition, write to a Lord or two and share this page to spread the word! This is one of many issues which people aren’t generally aware of and, when they’re made aware of it, are flabbergasted by.

We find this happens a lot on our Saturday Street Surgery stalls!

Further information

Most of the facts and figures in this post are from the We Own It website: Why buses would be better in public ownership

The are a lot of useful documents on the government website: Bus Services Bill: Overview


  • Geoff Kerr

    I would like to sign this petition but cannot. My browser says “the owner of weownit.org.uk has configured their web site improperly. To protect your information from being stolen, Firefox has not connected to this web site.”

    • Dave Plummer

      Hi Geoff. Thanks for your comment, I’m sorry that it’s taken this long to reply.

      Have you been able to sign the petition or did you continue to get security messages?

  • Jason Keen

    Hello, I know this thread is a bit old and not sure if its still going.
    We live in Waltham Abbey and my son attends Epping St John’s School. Last term he caught the 213 Regal bus home every day at the cost of £1. This term the council have given the contract to EOS. The same journey now costs £2.50 and the bus frequency has been reduced. This is an increase of around £292.50 per year per child. I’ve written to the council but they have failed to reply.

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