Last year we announced our intention to establish a small number of new better bus areas, within which bus subsidy would be devolved to the local authority to invest in bus improvement measures in partnership with local operators. The Department has made good progress with five new better bus areas having been announced this year. These are in Sheffield, York, the west of England—the area centred around Bath and Bristol—Merseyside and Nottingham.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the speed with which this new scheme has been rolled out, but may I urge him to ensure we have fair and firm targeting, particularly on remote rural areas? I have a number of villages in my constituency that have no bus service at all, and many that do have very little provision.
Earlier this year we announced that current levels of Government support for buses will be maintained until at least 2016, and we have also ring-fenced a portion of bus subsidy that will be devolved to local authorities from January, providing greater security to vital local services. In addition, in 2011-12 a total of £20 million in funding was targeted to rural authorities to support those very vital community transport solutions.
What is the Minister doing to improve bus services for young people? I recently met some young people on the national citizenship scheme in my constituency, and they raised the particular problem that for them travelling around after 6 pm on unaffordable transport is almost impossible. What are the Government doing to help young people travel around in their areas?
We believe these better bus areas are a more intelligent way of supporting bus services. Rather than the crude method of a straightforward fuel subsidy, the partnership between local authorities and bus companies will encourage things such as smart ticketing, better information and bus priority schemes, which make buses more reliable for young people and for everyone else.
When will the Minister get his act together on buses? Most people in this country travel on buses. Buses are really important to our country, but the bus industry feels neglected by this Government—and why cannot I have a new innovative bus scheme in Huddersfield and Kirklees?
Despite what we heard in the last general election campaign, the Conservatives have kept the concessionary travel scheme for pensioners, along with all the other benefits for pensioners. Some 40% of money going into buses outside London is Government support and we believe we are discharging our responsibilities in that regard.