Bishop of St Albans asks about provision of services to rural areas

The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 31st January 2023:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to prevent the closure of rural bus routes.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con): The Government has provided nearly £2 billion of support since March 2020 through emergency and recovery grants to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on the bus sector. This includes a six-month extension to the Bus Recovery Grant to provide up to £130 million to continue supporting bus services in England outside London until the end of March of this year.

The Government is also providing £60 million to help bus operators cap single fares at £2 on services in England outside London from 1 January to 31 March 2023. Over 130 operators covering more than 4,600 routes throughout England are participating in the scheme, including in rural areas, which will help increase patronage on buses and help millions save on their regular travel costs.

Our £20 million Rural Mobility Fund (RMF) is supporting 16 innovative, demand-led minibus trials in rural and suburban areas across 15 local authorities in England. These pilots are exploring whether Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) can serve these communities more effectively than traditional public transport solutions alone.

We have engaged extensively with rural stakeholders on how new transport modes can benefit rural communities in developing the soon to be published Future of Transport: Rural Strategy.


The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support the provision of (1) swimming pools, and (2) leisure centres, in rural areas.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con): HM Government recognises the importance of ensuring public access to swimming pools across the country, including in rural areas. Swimming is a great way for people of all ages to stay fit and healthy. The responsibility for providing this access lies with local authorities, and the Government continues to encourage them to support swimming facilities.

We appreciate the impact that rising energy prices are having on organisations of all sizes, including on operators of swimming pools. That is why we announced the £18 billion Energy Bill Relief Scheme in September last year. The scheme was always time-limited, and has now been succeeded by the Energy Bills Discount Scheme. Under the new scheme, swimming pools will continue to receive discounts on their gas and electricity bills during the 12-month period from April 2023 to March 2024.

Officials in my Department are in regular contact with representatives from the sector to assess the impact of rising energy costs, including monitoring how operators and local authorities are responding to them.

Sport England has invested £12,775,274 of public money in swimming and diving projects since April 2019, which includes £9,360,002 to Swim England. This is in addition to the Government’s £100 million National Leisure Recovery Fund, which supported the reopening of local authority swimming pools throughout the country after the pandemic.


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