Comment: Council must be tough in buses fight

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The top dogs at Edinburgh City Council must be tearing their hair out at the ongoing saga that is Lothian Buses. With their own difficult budget issues to manage, leader Andrew Burns and chief executive Sue Bruce would surely have hoped that the city’s arms-length bus company, now under the new umbrella of Transport for Edinburgh, would have purred along quietly during this period.

Instead, an organisation that has four directors who are paid more than the First Minister, is now riven with internal fighting. And there is little prospect of this unseemly boardroom battle being parked.

The council, via transport convener Lesley Hinds, has decided that the best course of action is to keep all four directors – Ian Craig, Bill Campbell, Bill Devlin and Norman Strachan, on board.

Given the potential for large taxpayer payouts to departing staff, and the fact that the operations of the company have largely been successful (bus and tram patronage are doing well), then this is understandable.

But this lets-get-together-and-work-it-all-out strategy fails to deal with the residual anger across the organisation as a whole. Deep divisions are widening between current and former staff who believe the issues have not been tackled head on. And the last person who attempted to sort this out, former Lothian Buses chair Ann Faulds, submitted her own resignation after the local authority did not back her over the sacking of Ian Craig.

This issue will not go away while reports are kept secret and details are hidden in files. This only fuels rumour and erodes confidence in the overall management.

We need truth and complete transparency from Transport for Edinburgh. Obfuscation and misdirection are not an acceptable way of dealing with this – and the staff of the bus company and the people of Edinburgh will not stand for it.