Transport workers are warning councillors that they are putting the future of public transport in Edinburgh at risk – with cuts to services and increased fares the possible result.
Members of Unite the union will tell today’s Edinburgh city council transport committee (Tue 17 Jan) to scrap plans to take £20 million from Lothian Buses in a special dividend.
It has emerged that Lothian Buses has told the council that the plan ‘comes with a risk’. Midlothian, West Lothian and East Lothian councils – who are minority shareholders in Lothian Buses – have also raised major concerns about the plan, fearing that county services will be cut as a result.
The union says the council should scrap the plans and look at the example of Aberdeen City Council, which recently staged a successful bond issue worth £370 million.
Unite regional officer Tony Trench said: “We support investment in the future of Edinburgh Trams. Our members there are working hard and doing an excellent job serving local people and visitors to the city.
“But that investment shouldn’t be at the expense of Lothian Buses. Lothian Buses have been clear – these plans carry risk. If the result is increased fares, and cuts to routes and fleet investment, then it is city councillors who will carry the blame.
“The Aberdeen model shows that there are other, more sustainable, ways of raising finance for the successful future of Edinburgh Trams. Simply robbing Peter to pay Paul is short-sighted and dangerous.”
Unite is also calling on councillors to scrap Transport for Edinburgh (TfE), saying the company’s yearly costs of nearly half-a-million pounds simply can’t be justified at a time of council cuts.
Tony Trench said: “Transport for Edinburgh is presenting its strategy to councillors today. It’s high on jargon and low on substance. It’s incredible that one of the major priorities identified is branding and communications.
“Throughout the document, TfE proposes taking over functions and projects that are already being carried out by others. It’s an organisation desperately looking for a role for itself.
“Edinburgh can’t afford to pay out nearly £500,000 a year on a company that doesn’t bring anything new to the table. There is an election coming up, and if councillors approve TfE’s massive expense, they’ll have to justify that to the citizens of Edinburgh.”
Unite members have become so concerned about the future of transport in Edinburgh, that union branches at Lothian Buses, Edinburgh Trams, Edinburgh Bus Tours, East Coast Buses and the City of Edinburgh Council have come together in a new transport organisation.
The Unite People’s Transport User Services’ Watchdog will allow branches to share information and plan lobbying and action in defence of public transport in the city.
Tony Trench said: “We plan for this new organisation to become a powerful new voice, defending our members’ interests, and acting as a watchdog to defend and promote affordable, good-quality publicly-owned transport in the city.”
For further information, or to arrange an interview, contact Unite Scotland press officer David Eyre on 07960 451631. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Papers for the Transport and Environment Committee’s agenda item on Transport for Edinburgh and Lothian Buses are available here: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/download/meetings/id/52940/item_71_-_tfe_strategy_and_lb_business_plan Lothian Buses’ concerns about the special £20 million dividend are set out in pages 23-25 of their Business Plan.
The concerns of Midlothian, West Lothian and East Lothian councils about the special dividend were set out at Midlothian Council’s meeting on 27 September: https://is.gd/iVw6KI