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Deregulation blamed for Bus fare rises and falling passenger levels

The Western Mail reports on view of the Institute for Public Policy Research that bus passengers in Wales have been let down by a lack of competition and a failure of deregulation.

They say that the cost of travelling on the nation’s buses has risen significantly faster than inflation over the last 30 years:

Experts working for the thinktank blamed the lifting of regulation from the industry in 1986 for the fact that fares had risen 34% above the rate of inflation.

Across the UK, outside of London, bus use has also fallen by 32.5 per cent, over the last 30 years.

The only part of the UK where bus services were not deregulated was London and in that time bus use has nearly doubled in the city.

In contrast, Cardiff bus announced plans earlier this year to increase fares and axe many of its services blaming funding cuts and low usage of some services

IPPR associate director Will Straw said: “London has the best buses in Britain and that’s no accident. TfL has been a great success while the deregulation of buses outside London has largely failed.

“Outside London, bus passenger journeys are down and fares are rising higher than inflation. Examples of successful bus markets outside London are all too rare so local transport bodies should be given greater powers to hold uncompetitive providers to account.”

The IPPR’s figures showed that one in eight people rely on the bus to get to work and that people made more than three times as many bus journeys as rail journeys – more than five billion each year.

The report said that the poorest made more than three times as many trips per year by bus than the richest, yet bus fares in England (outside London) had risen by 35% above inflation between 1995 and 2013, and by 34% in Wales and 20% in Scotland.

It added that 37% of weekly services outside London did not face any effective head-to head competition and just 1% of weekly services face effective head-to-head competition over all or most of their route.

The report recommended the creation of local transport bodies modelled on TfL .

He went on: “As well as regulating bus services, routes and fares, these new bodies should have a wider role of encouraging better integration between buses and other modes of transport including rail.

“This will help increase the number of passengers using public transport. Responsibility for transport related to schools and hospitals should be devolved to these regional transport bodies with any savings made from achieving efficiencies retained and reinvested in other local sustainable transport projects.”

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Mark Williams launches petition to reduce rate of VAT for tourism industry

Ceredigion’s Welsh Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams has launched a petition calling on the Government to reduce the rate of VAT on the tourism sector.

The petition, which was launched this week at Clarach Bay Holiday Village in Ceredigion, calls on the Government to reduce the rate of VAT on hotels and tourist attractions from the standard 20% rate to a 5% rate. Research shows this measure, which has been successfully implemented in all but 2 other EU countries, will boost the local economy and create jobs. Indeed, new research published last week has shown that if implemented the move would create over 120,000 jobs across the UK, and add £4 billion to GDP each year.

Commenting at the petition launch Mark Williams said:

‘I am delighted to launch this petition at a local caravan park, a prime example of a good local tourism business which whilst thriving, would benefit greatly from a cut in the rate of VAT – the business could grow, employ more local people, and further contribute to our local economy.

‘We need to do all we can to promote the tourism sector in wales, which often falls foul of the attention given to the tourism industry in other parts of the UK, like Scotland or Ireland. This measure will grow the tourism industry across the whole of the UK, and this sector is particularly key in Ceredigion.

‘I hope many people will join me in calling on the Government to implement this lower VAT rate, which will benefit consumers, businesses, local jobs, the local economy and the national economy.’

To sign the petition or find out more information please visit here or contact Mark’s office on 01979 627721.

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Cut to student funding is ill-timed and ill-judged

The decision by the Welsh Government to withdraw the Financial Contingency Fund for higher education students is very disturbing.

Welsh Labour claims that it wants to widen access to higher education for disadvantaged students but this decision does exactly the opposite.

To pull this funding now, with just three weeks to go until the start of the new academic year, leaves both students and universities in the lurch at this crucial time.

Universities have been given very little time to put in place any additional support for these students, many of whom rely on this fund to cover their costs for books, childcare or disability costs.

Last year, over five thousand students benefited from the scheme with over £2million being awarded to support them in their studies.

This decision seems to a sad consequence of the Welsh Labour Government’s poor planning and their unsustainable higher education funding policy.

The Welsh Labour Government needs to reverse this decision immediately and consult with universities and students before any changes to student support are made.

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Literacy and Numeracy tests must be more meaningful

This is the second year that the Literacy and Numeracy Test results have been published, but given the lack of year-on-year comparable data I have to question their validity.

It would have been helpful if today’s results had been able to tell us that there had been an improvement on last year’s scores, but there is nothing in the data I have read which tells me that such figures are available.

Schools were given their results in the very last week of term and I know that some found it extremely difficult to get the information out to parents.

It’s all very well getting schools to carry out these tests, but if they are not producing meaningful data which can be used to build on standards then I have to query the merit of conducting them in the first place.

The Welsh Government needs to have a good look at what these tests actually achieve and what is being done with the information being collected. I have no doubt that in working and learning with the teaching profession we can adapt this current system so that the tests deliver much more appropriate and meaningful results.

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GCSE results again reflect persistence and determination

This year’s GCSE results once again show that students and teachers are working hard to achieve high quality grades in Wales. I congratulate everyone on their efforts.

The new standards of marking are more rigorous and more is expected of GCSE candidates if they want to achieve the best results.

However, with increased focus on standards of numeracy and literacy in examinations it is vital no young people are put at a disadvantage in a more robust system. As today’s results show, comparable outcomes with last year have largely been achieved.

Given the unseemly events surrounding English Language GCSE grades in Wales earlier this year and in 2012, the persistence and determination of both teachers and pupils is to be applauded.

As pupils now consider the next steps in their careers, the Welsh Government must carefully consider how it will make sure that Welsh GCSEs have the appropriate credibility and portability to give our young people the best chance for the future.

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No complacency allowed over road safety statistics

The latest road safety statistics released yesterday show a fall in casualties. This is welcome, but the sad rise in deaths should come as a warning sign to the Welsh Labour Government. We must never stop efforts to improve road safety for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

The Welsh Government has invested heavily to boost the number of pupils walking to school, yet the number of children doing so is falling. The Welsh Government needs to ensure that it is achieving value for money for the taxpayer with these schemes.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats want to see local councils consulting with parents and teachers to introduce more 20mph zones outside schools. Although they’re not the answer for all schools, many are incredibly effective at slowing traffic down and avoiding potentially fatal accidents.

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