This is why council leaders believe South Yorkshire's declining bus services could be linked to social isolation

South Yorkshire council leaders have raised concerns around loneliness and a link to declining bus service across the region.

Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 4:21 pm
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 3:12 pm

The comments come after the four leaders agreed to freeze the bus levy paid to South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) despite councils being entitled to a two per cent cut.

The levy is paid to SYPTE in order to carry out public transport works in the region.

Sheffield, with the highest population in the county, pays 41.5 per cent of SYPTE’s £54.3 million budget.

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Pictured are Buses in and around Sheffield City Centre. Pic Steve Ellis

Doncaster contributes 22 per cent, Rotherham 19 per cent and Barnsley 17.5 per cent.

Since April 2010, the annual levy has been reduced by £40.3m (42.5 per cent) from £94.7m in against budget reductions faced by the South Yorkshire councils.

To achieve these levy reductions, SYPTE has had to cut costs.

All four councils were entitled to a further two per cent reduction in levy payments but town hall leaders were asked to maintain 2019/2020 levels which would generate £1.1 million.

Proposals to earmark this money could be spent on a detailed analysis on essential routes in each district and emerging routes with growing patronage numbers.

Another option is to top up reserve levels which bosses say would help with inflationary costs.

Mayor Jones said she was ‘happy to freeze’ the bus levy.

She said: “Doncaster has a large area for buses to cover and we have a great deal of social isolation,” she said.

“With people living in the urban and rural areas, we need to try and mitigate the effects of people not being able to get on the buses and stop companies withdrawing the services because of this.

“With great soul searching, it’s about having to balance the cuts we as an authority are having to face and the cuts the wider region are facing.

“Social isolation is a big thing we’re all going to have to face along with not actually delivering the services our people require. At the last meeting we saw petitions come for bus cuts within Doncaster."

Sheffield Council leader Coun Julie Dore added: “When you look at budgets in isolation, they’re very dry reports but actually, they do tell a story.

“I’ll take note from what Ros has said on social isolation, I don’t think it’s just because of buses and the cuts we’ve had to services but it’s from other factors as well like austerity which hits other things.

“People will only get on a bus if they have somewhere to go, if those places to go are on the decline like local services, activities, pubs for example, then that will impact on the sustainability of a transports system.

“We need to look deeper into this budget and the story it tells of social isolation and loneliness … it’s a very worrying trend.”