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Better procurement 'could save public transport services'

15 August 2011

Transport minister Norman Baker has said local authorities should aim to prevent public transport cuts by saving money through improved procurement.

Mr Baker made his comments in response to a new report from the Commons Transport Select Committee, which warned that major cuts to bus services could affect the most vulnerable members of society.

The group of MPs claimed bus users around the UK have voiced "anger and concern" about the scaling back of public transport, with some councils withdrawing subsidies to vital bus routes that are not commercially viable in the wake of the coalition's 2010 spending review.

However, Mr Baker said authorities must take a creative approach to dealing with the "challenging" overall funding settlement, as local council revenue has fallen by 28 per cent this year.

"We are keeping a close eye on whether councils are approaching this imaginatively, finding savings in procurement and back-room staff, or just reaching for the axe and cutting frontline services," he commented.

The committee's report also warned that further cuts to bus services are likely to be seen from 2012, with councils struggling to manage their budget reductions.

In central government, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude recently hailed the impact of "smarter procurement" in helping Whitehall to slash spending.

On August 1st, he said the government's "ambitious targets to cut waste and save money" had already paid off, with a total of £3.75 billion saved between May 2010 and March this year.

"It is these savings, which have been achieved in just ten months, that have allowed departments to protect essential frontline services and jobs," Mr Maude remarked.

The Cabinet Office published a breakdown of the procurement figures, which revealed that £800 million was saved by renegotiating deals with large suppliers, while centralising the purchase of common goods and services has cut expenditure by £360 million.

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Categories: Local Government

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