Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Mike Rumbles MSP has today revealed new figures showing that councils and bus operators spent more than three quarters of a million pounds paying non-domestic rates bills for bus shelters in 2018-19, warning the SNP Government’s “Bus Stop Tax” was discouraging local authorities from investing in facilities.
A parliamentary question by Mr Rumbles has shown that the amount of non-domestic rates income raised from bus shelters was £764,424 in 2018-19. Non-domestic rates income is pooled between councils, with the Scottish Government determining what level of support is given to councils. This means that councils who build more bus shelters will have to pay more money into the pooled funds but will not receive more funds to cover the costs.
Fife Council has stopped providing new bus shelters for the last 6 years, funding replacements only, and has a backlog of 80 requests for new shelters in that time.
Mr Rumbles said:
“Bus travel has fallen dramatically under the SNP. If facilities were better, more people would use public transport and this trend could be reversed. Instead people are having to stand in the rain because of the SNP’s Bus Stop Tax.
“Councils have to find the money to pay for these facilities in the first place and then pay annual rates on top of that. The evidence is that they are turning down requests to put up new bus shelters as a result.
“The Scottish Government is going to have to do far more to get people onto public transport if it is serious about upgrading its policies to reflect the climate emergency. Ministers could start by getting rid of the Bus Stop Tax.”
Tay Bridgehead Councillor Jonny Tepp commented:
“In the face of the Bus Stop Tax, the council has stopped providing new shelters. There is now a huge backlog of requests for bus shelters across Fife. The bill for existing shelters already runs to tens of thousands of pounds.
“People are going to be discouraged from getting the bus so long as they know that they are going to be totally exposed to the elements while they wait.
“It is time to arrest the decline in bus usage, and one way of doing that is to end the Bus Stop Tax.”