THE union representing the Capital’s bus and tram drivers is calling for umbrella body Transport for Edinburgh to be scrapped.
Unite says there is still uncertainty about where the £472,000 budget for the arms-length company will come from. And it is challenging city leaders to justify such a cost at a time of council cuts
Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) was set up in 2013 as the parent company for Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams and is wholly owned by the city council. But it was said at the time it would not have its own staff and would rely on existing Lothian Buses and council personnel.
Transport convener Lesley Hinds said then: “We are not setting up a bureaucratic system. It will not have a separate office or anything like that.”
But now it has running costs of almost half a million pounds and Unite question the need for such an expensive organisation.
Unite regional officer Tony Trench said: “We have to ask – what is Transport for Edinburgh for? When the idea of a holding company for the council’s shares in Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams was first put before the council, it was said that this would simply be a shell, with no staff.
“But now it’s grown into an organisation with well-paid directors and ambitions to take over the management of Lothian Buses.
“TfE has running costs of nearly half a million pounds a year, and we still don’t know where it’s going to come from in years to come – the council tax or the trams and buses?
“We’re not convinced we need this expensive organisation to deliver integrated transport in Edinburgh.
“We already have a council department that deals with transport, along with an executive director, a chief executive, and a transport committee, boards for Edinburgh Trams and Lothian Buses, and the South East of Scotland Transport Partnership where all the local authorities come together. Do we really need another expensive organisation on top?
“There is an election coming up, and we’re asking all councillors to justify the added expense of TfE at a time of council cuts”.
Unite has previously raised concerns about giving TfE management responsibility for Lothian Buses – fearing it could open up the award-winning council-owned company to future privatisation.
Councillor Hinds said TfE had been set up as the strategic body to develop, promote and integrate public transport in Edinburgh, as well as parent company for Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams.
She continued: “Comments around privatisation are unhelpful and misguided. Every political group on the Council has publicly stated its commitment to keep Lothian Buses in public ownership. The role of TfE does nothing to change this.
“A report to January’s committee will detail Lothian Buses’ three-year business plan and make it clear that the day-to-day running of Lothian Buses remains entirely with its Board and executive team.”