CHANGES to the bus network could come with a multi-million-pound bill for taxpayers, writes Local Democracy Reporter Joseph Timan.

Councils in Greater Manchester have each been asked to set aside millions of pounds to fund reforms to the bus system proposed by the Metro Mayor.

The bus franchising proposals would bring buses under public control giving authorities a bigger say in which bus routes run in the region and how much it should cost to ride them.

A total of £17.8m has already been earmarked as a one-off contribution from local authorities in case a government grant does not cover the cost.

This comes after £11m was raised this year in council tax for the mayor’s bus proposals with a further £22.7m expected to be raised from council tax in future years.

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But Mayor Andy Burnham told an audience in Bolton that he is lobbying government for sufficient funding so that taxpayers in Greater Manchester do not end up footing the bill.

He said: “The government promised in their manifesto a London-style bus system. I’ve gone back to them now and said, ‘Okay, thank you, because we want that, but do you realise that a London-style bus system requires London-scale subsidies of the kind that you enjoyed as Mayor of London Mr Prime Minister?”

“What was good enough for you is definitely good enough for the us in the North now.

"So I’m in those discussions with the government and I am asking them for subsidies worth tens of millions of pounds so that I don’t have to come to all of you in this room to pay for the better bus system that we need.”

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) is hoping to raise £78m of mayoral “earn back” funds provided by the government as part of its devolution agreement.

But Bolton Council borough treasurer Sue Johnson revealed that Greater Manchester had to show it could pay for the changes to the bus system by itself.

She said: “We await an announcement from the government.

"The business case had to go in on the assumption that we didn’t need any money from the government, so it is self-financing.

"If the government grant isn’t enough, the GMCA will say, this is how much we need from Bolton Council.”

Council leader David Greenhalgh described Greater Manchester’s bargaining position as “rather awkward”.

He said: “It will cost us money, there’s no doubt about it.

"There’s money that’s earmarked.

"But we are not aware of the government support that is coming to Greater Manchester as of yet. "There is supposed to be an announcement in the budget next year.”