OTLEY'S MP is spearheading a bid to bring local bus services under public ownership.

FirstGroup announced earlier this year that they would be selling First Bus. Now Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West) and West Yorkshire's 16 other Labour MPs, including Keighley and Ilkley MP John Grogan, have written to the group to urge it to sell its regional division separately.

The idea is for West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) to then have the first chance to buy that part of the company and and take over the running of its bus services.

On Tuesday, October 15 Mr Sobel also tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament echoing the points in the letter.

The MP acknowledges that the bid is 'audacious' but believes it would deliver clear benefits to passengers. He said: "This is the start of what could be a very significant win for our constituents.

"We need FirstGroup first to agree to sell the West Yorkshire division separately and to give WYCA the first option to buy.

"Our focus then will be to make sure WYCA gets the funding that it needs and there are several potential avenues for this.

"The standard of our bus service is not of the quality that it needs to be to ensure reliability for our constituents and to encourage wide scale usage.

"If we are successful in this campaign, we can finally provide our constituents with oversight of their service, putting the people in the driving seat."

Mr Grogan said: "I believe in backing models of ownership that work in different markets.

"There are only a small number of municipal bus companies in the UK yet they have won UK Bus Operator of the Year for six of the past ten. I think that is due a lot to local pride and a commitment to serving the locality, as well as being able to plough all profits back into the business

"For example Nottingham City Transport (NCT), the largest local authority-owned operator in England, has been found by industry pressure Group Transport Focus to have the highest customer satisfaction of any in the UK."

The move follows a meeting at the WYCA where council leaders discussed the possibility of buying part of First Bus.

Leeds City Council leader Councillor Judith Blake said: "I am pleased that the West Yorkshire MPs share our desire to explore ownership of our bus service and hope that FirstGroup seriously consider these calls. This presents us with an opportunity to engage in the process of the sale of First Bus.

"We are still at an early stage but thank the MPs for opening up a potential dialogue with the company."

A spokesperson for First Bus (Yorkshire & Greater Manchester) said: "In May we announced we will be pursuing strategic options to separate First Bus from FirstGroup.

"Our bus companies are attractive businesses and we’re encouraged at the interest shown in this process by a wide range of parties. We continue to assess a range of possible options such as a sale – either as a whole or in part – or by other means.

"As this process progresses, we are committed to keeping our stakeholders in West Yorkshire and elsewhere informed as appropriate.

"Meanwhile, we continue to operate and transform our networks as well as investing in our services for customers. This includes our partnership in the West Yorkshire Bus Alliance where the Combined Authority, bus operators and local authorities are working hard to encourage more people to take the bus through improved reliability, information, ticketing and better, low-emission vehicles."