BARNSLEY Council leader Sir Steve Houghton will ‘not mislead’ the public on the local authority’s stance on unreliable bus services potentially being brought into public ownership - after he was accused of being ‘lukewarm’ to growing calls for change.

During a discussion around buses, Coun Steve Hunt - who represents Darton East - said Barnsley’s services were deteriorating.

He added he was getting regular complaints about buses not turning up, being late or cancelled at the last minute in his ward.

“I am sure it’s a similar story across the borough”, he added.

“Now, undoubtedly, there are huge challenges financially in delivering and improving bus services but despite the government we have, we do see in Manchester that the Labour mayor, Andy Burnham, is able to make some improvements.

“In South Yorkshire, mayor Oliver Coppard is making some progress on the bus franchising process but we’re lagging behind due to Labour in-fighting.

“In our previous discussions on this matter, the leader here - Coun Steve Houghton - has been lukewarm at best on bus franchising.”

The council would have to find a share of an estimated £11m to replace all bus services planned to be culled by private operators - for just a six-month period - if called-for privatisation plans ever come to fruition.

Between October 2022 and April 2023, South Yorkshire’s public budget to support bus services is £11.9m.

It is estimated to cost at least £23m to replace all the services that bus companies plan to remove.

Sir Steve said his position on bus franchising was clear.

He said: “I fully support bus franchising on the basis that it is affordable and it has no significant tax implications through council tax for residents - I think anyone who promises to do something without that recognition would be irresponsible.

“We are united in South Yorkshire on that basis.

“However, what we do not do is mislead the public and say bus franchising will solve our problems, because it won’t.

“It simply transfers the problem from private bus operators into the public sector.

“Greater Manchester received a substantial amount of funding - South Yorkshire got zero.”