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Defend our bus service

Unite protests plans threatening publicly-owned bus firm
David Eyre, Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Unite  has urged Edinburgh citizens to tell their councillors not to go ahead with controversial plans for Lothian Buses.


Yesterday (August 30), members of Edinburgh’s transport committee voted to push ahead with proposals to put Lothian Buses under the direct management of arms-length company Transport for Edinburgh (TfE).


The council will now draw up a Service Level Agreement with TfE, which will then be brought back to the transport committee for discussion at its next meeting on November 1.


Dozens of Unite members from Lothian Buses (pictured) lobbied the transport committee, voicing their concerns that the move could lead to the company being plundered for other budgets – and even made vulnerable to a future sell-off.


“We are extremely disappointed with this decision and are increasingly concerned about the lack of transparency over this process,” said Unite regional officer Tony Trench.


“During the meeting it was said that there would be no effect on the day-to-day running of Lothian Buses,” he added. “But after the meeting, TfE Chief Executive George Lowder told us that we may end up with one board running both Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams.


“Lothian Buses is the jewel in the crown of Scottish transport – a publicly-owned company that is stable, profitable and provides a good service to the people of Lothian. Edinburgh City Council should be celebrating and supporting its bus service – not putting it in the hands of an arms-length company.


“Our members will carry on our campaign against these changes, and we are confident that we will have the support of passengers throughout Lothian,” Trench went on to say. “We urge the citizens of Edinburgh to get in touch with their councillors and tell them clearly that they don’t want these plans to go ahead.


“We will also be speaking to the other Lothian councils who are shareholders in Lothian Buses.”


At the moment, TfE simply holds Edinburgh City Council’s shares in the bus company, and helps develop an overall transport strategy for the city. Lothian Buses has its own board, its own management, and reports directly to Edinburgh City Council.


TfE also owns Edinburgh Trams, and the move to place Lothian Buses under its control has increased concerns that even more profits from the bus company will be used to pay for the controversial £145 million ‘Leith Walk’ tram extension. The council has already approved plans to put £20 million of Lothian Bus profits towards the project.


There are also fears that the move to TfE could leave Lothian Buses vulnerable to a possible sell-off to a private bus firm.


Earlier this month, UNITElive reported how the government’s Bus Services Bill threatens to ban councils in England from running their own bus services.


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