In a joint statement, Rachel Maclean, MP for Redditch, and Councillor Mike Rouse, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport on Worcestershire County Council, said:
“We are working hard to review, enhance and secure bus services across Redditch.
“We have met on a number of occasions to find a solution to the challenges facing our bus services. We’re also in the process of arranging a meeting with the Bus Minister Baroness Vere.
“As part of this work, a full network assessment is being undertaken and will be submitted to Department for Transport along with reviews for other areas of England.
“At the same time, we have established a Bus Travel Task Force for Worcestershire that will meet in Redditch in September, and all representatives at all levels and across all parties are invited. This will be a forum organised by the council not one political party.
“The problems facing bus travel are the result of many decades of overall decline in demand, and no one political party can ever pretend to have all the answers. By working together through the existing democratic structures we can make progress.
“The County Council is also implementing a statutory Enhanced Partnership to drive up standards and quality of service.
“In addition to this, the County Council is also looking at rolling out Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) further across the county, and we are working to bring this to Redditch.
“On top of the review, the task force, the statutory Enhanced Partnership, and the DRT extension, the County Council is also working on additional subsidies to support operations at this challenging time.
“It is unclear what more value a public forum being hosted by the Labour Party could hope you achieve on top of the 5 concrete steps already being put in place. We remind everyone that Labour representatives are welcome to the Task Force meetings and we very much hope they will come to the table.
“A public forum on top of everything that is already in-hand is a naked political stunt by the Labour Party so they can try and make it look like they are leading on this issue. The fact is they’re not. The do not control the Borough Council, nor the County Council and are not in a position to make or implement any decisions.
“Labour is, however, responsible for the Overview and Scrutiny functions at the Borough Council and they have representatives at the same committee at County Hall.
“There was a scrutiny session at County Hall in May 2022, which was attended by members of the public. There has been no similar meeting at Redditch Town Hall despite Labour having control of the agenda and those meetings also being open to the public.
“Having reflected on the situation we call on Labour to use the existing powers they have to provide overview and scrutiny on this issue, and that they do not seek to politicise a topic that means an awful lot to so many people.
“The travelling public of Redditch expect, demand and deserve a regular, punctual and affordable bus service and we are focused on delivery of this through the approach set out above. On that basis, and bearing in mind that there is an opportunity to meet at the scrutiny committee in addition to the Task Force meetings, we do not think a party political meeting is necessary, however we are willing to attend so we can brief attendees in person about the approach that we have already set out above.”