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In the News

Another English devolution policy example

Mike McCartney

28th March 2024

West Yorskshire makes an about turn on bus transport after 40 years

While on the surface, who runs the bus network may not be an eye-catching and exciting policy area, public transport campaigners buses are used by a lot of people, and play a crucial role in moving people around a region without adding the amount of extra congestion that cars do, thus leaving streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Question on the video:

1. What were the main arguments presented by both sides of the bus franchising debate in West Yorkshire?

2. How did the best for West Yorkshire group promote their EP Plus proposals to the public?

3. What are some of the potential benefits of bus franchising according to the supporters?

4. What concerns were raised by the bus industry regarding the cost of franchising buses in the region?

5. How did the surveys conducted by the best for West Yorkshire and We Own It differ in their findings?

6. What changes have been implemented in the region as a result of cooperation with private bus operators and other schemes?

7. How was the decision made by the mayor and combined Authority regarding the proposed franchising scheme received?

Correct answers:

1. The main arguments included providing public control over the network, increasing ridership, improving accountability, unifying ticketing, and creating a better bus provision for the region.

2. The best for West Yorkshire group actively promoted their EP Plus proposals through public campaigns and surveys.

3. Supporters believe that franchising will increase public control, improve the network, and unify ticketing, among other benefits.

4. The bus industry expressed concerns over the cost of franchising buses and the method of awarding contracts, particularly smaller operators.

5. The best for West Yorkshire survey highlighted respondents' lack of awareness of costs and opinions on financial risk, while We Own It survey showed support for control of services and employing bus drivers directly.

6. Changes include a cap on single and day tickets in Leeds, new electric buses in Calderdale, a new express bus route in Wakefield, and more frequent buses in Halifax.

7. The decision to proceed with the franchising scheme was recommended by the consultation response and reaffirmed by the combined Authority as the preferred option for bus reform in West Yorkshire.

The West Yorkshire region, covering the two main cities of Leeds and Bradford, is the latest to see its buses move from private to public control after Greater Manchester and Liverpool, and is attributable to decisions made by mayors of the respective city regions, Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram.

We can see this as a positive step brought about as the result of increased devolution in the regions of England. The arguments for and against devolution in England can be summed up as follows.

These can be considered as the arguments in favour of English regional devolution

  • It is much more efficient to have the regions concerned with policy delivery involved in the formulation of policy,
  • On a related note, this would additionally this would relieve the burden on central government.
  • Evidence from the Celtic arenas suggests that there are clear benefits to bringing the government closer to the people since policies can be designed to fit the needs of the people in different regions
  • The governmental structures we have now are in need of remodelling: local government was designed to fit the needs of the mid-nineteenth century and central government expanded in the middle of the twentieth to meet the demands of that time.
  • Since the (unelected) Regional Development Agencies were scrapped in 2012 there is a lack of strategic co-ordination across many regions (except London, and Greater Manchester for example) with regards to economic development, regeneration, plans to boost employment, and so forth.
  • It would provide a counter-point to London-centricism; it is difficult to think of another polity that is so dominated economically and politically by its nation’s biggest city.
  • The regions in England need to have a platform that will give their area a voice enabling them to lobby central government for increased funding.

These can be considered as the arguments against English regional devolution

  • If every region in England were to have some sort of devolution, then regions would be fighting amongst themselves for the same amount of money that was available before.
  • Government would not be brought closer to the people unless the devolved powers assume real powers – as in Scotland.
  • Any new structures would merely add an extra layer of bureaucracy.
  • Regional assemblies would do little to improve economic performance within the regions.
  • Claims that devolution would usher in a new form of politics have not been borne out by experiences in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

More detail on the policy and what locals in West Yorkshire think is here.

The final point to say is that if you study Economics, you might see there is a link here with contestable markets?

All aboard!

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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