FUNDING from Bournemouth Borough Council to help bus firms to deliver routes dropped by 45 per cent in the local authority's final 10 years of existence.

An FOI request revealed the net annual spend on the services, which are those where a local transport authority invites tenders for the operation of a route and a contract exists, fell in the borough from £550,876 in 2009/10 to £298,832 in 2018/19.

Financial backing from Borough of Poole, which was also abolished earlier this year, dropped over the same period, with a 21 per cent decrease from £816,000 to £640,040.

Councillor Andy Hadley, BCP Council cabinet member for transport and infrastructure, said the unitary authority was looking to put a "sustainable approach" to transport into action across the conurbation.

“The council will be reviewing aspects across BCP Council services and for transportation we will be putting a sustainable approach – reducing the need to travel and promoting walking, cycling, bus and train services – at the heart of our decisions," said Cllr Hadley.

“We will look at all funding options and we will take opportunities to work in partnership with suppliers to ensure the best value and the least impact on bus services where possible.”

Figures for Christchurch, East Dorset and the rest of the county were not available as Dorset Council said it only retained financial information for six financial years.

The head of one of the conurbations two major bus firms said nearly all routes are now offered on a commercial basis with no funding from local authorities.

David Squire, managing director of Yellow Buses, which became locally owned and run after a management buyout from the previous French owners last month, said: “The figures are no real surprise as the supported bus budget for all local authorities has fallen due to austerity. Indeed, some local authority areas have no supported buses at all.

“Here in Bournemouth, we run three routes for the local authorities (routes 18, 33 and 36). The vast bulk of the local bus network, i.e. over 99 per cent, is provided commercially by the two bus operators at no cost to the public purse. We’re both seeing growth on passenger numbers which is encouraging when set against the backdrop of very bad traffic congestion.”