Localism agenda means Baker is will not act on bus cuts.

Transport minister Norman Baker says that he is unwilling to intervene on funding disputes between bus operators and local authorities.

Baker’s comments, made during a speech at last week’s ALBUM conference at Wokefield Park, near Reading, follow significant cuts to supported services across the UK in recent months. Some areas, including Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, have made the decision to withdraw tendered bus services in their entirety.

“The localism agenda coupled with changes to the local government settlement means that local authorities have had to look closely at services,” explained Baker.

“Ceilings and floors have been taken away as part of localism. We are talking to them about the impact of some of their decisions, but in this devolved arrangement it’s down to them.”

Baker said that the Department for Transport had examined options for introducing alternative forms of funding and pointed to the recently announced Local Sustainable Transport Fund and additional finance for the community transport sector. However, the minister’s remarks drew a mixed response from delegates.

“Any politician has their social, economic and environmental objective, but above that is the need to get re-elected,” commented Cardiff Bus managing director David Brown.

“Norman Baker is saying all the right things, but the reality is that he is divorced from the situation that is happening in some parts of England,”

Paul Turner of transport consultancy TAS added: “The government has a great excuse now in that they can say that it’s the localism agenda.”