Bus row bosses AWOL as bitter dispute continues

Lothian Buses is currently missing more than half its senior management team as three directors stay away. Picture: Jane Barlow
Lothian Buses is currently missing more than half its senior management team as three directors stay away. Picture: Jane Barlow
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bus executives at the centre of a bitter boardroom row haven’t been seen at work for almost two weeks, it has emerged.

A senior source at Lothian Buses said the directors are unwilling to return unless chief executive Ian Craig is dismissed from his post.

Their absence means the bus firm is missing more than half its senior management team as three of five directors stay away.

Operations director Bill Campbell, engineering director Bill Devlin and finance director Norman Strachan have not appeared at the Annadale Street HQ since November 13 – the day that Mr Craig returned following an investigation into alleged mismanagement.

MSPs said the city’s bus users “can’t afford” for the row to rumble on and senior executives not to be at their desks.

Mediation efforts to try and resolve the differences between the men at the top of Lothian Buses have now ended, without the three returning to work.

The row began when the executive directors lodged a grievance against Mr Craig, who picks up a £270,000 salary, claiming he failed to consult them on major decisions and that he has an abrasive management style.

The claims were investigated by then-chairwoman Ann Faulds, but no disciplinary action was taken against Mr Craig. It later emerged that she was in favour of his departure.

Ms Faulds resigned on November 12, and city transport leader Councillor Lesley Hinds was brought in to try and resolve the differences. Council officials yesterday confirmed that Cllr Hinds would act as an observer on the board of Lothian Buses for three months as UK legislation prevents elected officials taking a direct role in running arms-length transport services.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone MSP said: “We can’t afford to have anyone on six-figure sums not behind their desk, giving their all. Lothian has a reputation as one of the finest bus operators in the UK, but this high-level row jeopardises that. And the next time there’s a fare rise on the buses in Edinburgh, commuters will rightly question what role this saga had to play in that.”

Interim Lothian Buses chairman Tony Depledge insisted that services were being “managed as normal” despite the absence of three key executives.

He said: “I want to provide professional long-term solution to this issue but it isn’t going to happen immediately.

“The mediation process is complete and discussions are ongoing with all involved regarding a positive way forward for Lothian Buses.

“My strong focus at this stage is on repairing and rebuilding the leadership of this organisation so that it can continue to provide excellent public transport. Our frontline service is being managed as normal.”

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com