City chiefs ‘kept council in dark’ over buses row

Jason Rust says the administration's involvement in the Lothian Buses row has been 'at best inconsistent'

Jason Rust says the administration's involvement in the Lothian Buses row has been 'at best inconsistent'

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THE city’s ruling administration has been urged to come clean about its role in the Lothian Buses row which has seen the company’s most senior officials at loggerheads for months.

Senior Tory councillor Jason Rust is demanding a report into the involvement of the Labour-SNP coalition during the dispute between chief executive Ian Craig and three directors.

He claimed despite the company being 91 per cent owned by the city, councillors had been kept in the dark and accused the administration of being “at best inconsistent” in its stance on the row.

Transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds joined the Lothian Buses board as an observer at the height of the crisis.

And the administration at first vetoed the request of chairman Ann Faulds to sack Mr Craig, prompting her resignation, though the company has since said all four men will leave within the next two years.

Cllr Rust said: “As the major shareholder in the company we need clarity urgently as to the council administration’s role over the past year. Their position has been at best inconsistent. We need a clear understanding of the level of involvement of senior councillors and officials in decision taking and the rationale for the council’s shifting position.

“For too long we have been kept in the dark. Now they have the opportunity to regain trust and put the record straight by addressing the serious concerns which have been expressed about the council’s role in this mess, in order for the staff and company to be able to move forward with confidence.”

The Evening News revealed in October that operations director Bill Campbell, engineering director Bill Devlin and finance director Norman Strachan had lodged a formal grievance against Mr Craig amid claims he undermined them and failed to consult on major decisions.

In November, Ms Faulds quit as Lothian Buses chairwoman after the council refused to accept her recommendation that Mr Craig should be dismissed. Cllr Rust’s motion, to be debated at next week’s full council meeting, notes with concern “the lack of clarity around the departure of the experienced former chairman of the company” and “the long-running management difficulties”.

He further calls for a report detailing events and council involvement since January 2014.

Cllr Hinds accused Cllr Rust of being more interested in publicity for himself than in the best interests of Lothian Buses.

She insisted she had kept the transport spokespeople of all parties updated on developments and said the transport committee had received a detailed account of the situation on January 13.

“There were no questions or disagreements at that meeting,” she said.

“The council has consistently stated its aim of seeing stability restored to Lothian Buses for the benefit of all staff and users.”