Frustration over city bus services
Sir Peter Soulsby has said he is frustrated the Government has not yet given him the power to control Leicester's bus network.
The city mayor spoke out after Secretary of State for Transport Sir Patrick McLoughlin declined an invitation to meet city council representatives to discuss handing over powers to run public transport locally.
Sir Peter has been looking to shake up the city's bus services since he was elected two years ago.
The Labour politician wants to be given powers similar to London mayor Boris Johnson, who is in charge of transport policy in the capital, but so far Sir Peter has gained no concessions.
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"It is frustrating," said Sir Peter. "The Government talks about giving councils greater controls, but has not done it.
"I am always pushing the Department for Transport to put powers where its rhetoric is."
Sir Peter said the key issue he wanted to address was making sure that, in return for being allowed to operate profitable routes in Leicester, bus companies would have to service other areas not on routes and at times passengers need them.
"In London, the mayor can say very clearly what routes need to be run, the frequency of the timetable and the level of services," he said.
"That is precisely what we need. In the past, the bus services have not served people as well as they might have.
"We need to make it easier to get people into the city centre to work and to shop.
"We will be meeting with Government officials very soon to discuss this further and I hope to make some progress."
In a letter to the city council, a spokesman for Sir Patrick said the Secretary of State would be unable to attend a meeting and urged Sir Peter to pursue greater transport powers through a City Deal – an arrangement where Whitehall agrees to give greater freedoms to cities to boost their local economies.
Leicester and Leicestershire have been earmarked for such a deal.
However, the details of this are yet to be worked out and might take months, while Sir Peter is keen to press ahead with any changes to public transport.
Sir Patrick's spokesman said: "The Government has stated that elected city mayors will have their own bespoke powers tailored to local needs, rather than a 'one size fits all' approach.
"The vehicle for achieving this will be through City Deals that the Government has been negotiating."
Chairman of Leicester City Council's transport scrutiny commission Councillor Neil Clayton said: "We've been snubbed by the transport secretary who doesn't seem interested in actually giving the mayor the powers he has been told he should get.
"To say that this will be achieved through a City Deal is not very convincing."