UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Labour's public transport policy heading in wrong direction

When will the Labour Party learn a bit of municipal history? Announcements trumpeted as some kind of radical overhaul of bus regulations by the party appear to be yet another neo-liberal experiment of continued privatisation of what ought to be public services.

Prior to Thatcher’s deregulation of municipal buses councils ran good, reliable services, which served urban and rural communities alike because profit was not a motive. Fast forward to the Thatcher vision of a share-owning democracy and despite the language of ‘employee owned non-profit businesses’ the deregulation of the buses was de facto management buy-outs. The employee owners soon sold their former municipal shares to the highest bidder and flirted off to Spain to buy a villa on the proceeds - never to drive a bus again. The reality was an audacious asset stripping of local transport and replacement by big business to run are now not-so-local bus companies that have abandoned rural communities and less profitable routes and hiked up fairs.

So why would the Labour Party want to espouse as radical a rehash of a Thatcherite policy of non-profit bus companies and community transport. Transport is a complex and costly and risky services and needs to have at its heart the core capacity to deliver which the public sector has. This timid approach from Labour, which smacks of the big society ‘blue labour’ nonsense that has confused voters and stands for nothing but an incoherent plan on public transport policy, is a shameful indictment of the lack of vision in Labour policy making. I just wish these people would grow a pair and say what we really need is a return to municipal bus companies.

Anna Rose