Bus chiefs urged to dispel concerns over £20m dividend

Lothian Buses is set to hand over a �20m 'extraordinary dividend'
Lothian Buses is set to hand over a �20m 'extraordinary dividend'
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Lothian Buses chiefs have been urged to reassure passengers that their decision to hand over a £20 million dividend to the city council will not have a negative impact on existing bus services.

Cash from the “extraordinary dividend” will allow councillors to proceed with initial proposals to extend the Capital’s tram route to Newhaven.

In their business report - which went before councillors this morning - Lothian Buses says the cash can be made available, starting next year and paid in full by 2021, on top of the normal annual dividend of £6m.

However Conservative councillor Nick Cook, the party’s transport spokesman on the council, said it was “vital” the public were assured that services would not be affected.

He said: “It’s a matter for the Lothian Buses board, however we remain deeply skeptical of any measures which would negatively impact on the excellent services provided by Lothian Buses.

“If this goes ahead we’d expect robust assurances that this won’t have a negative impact on users of Lothian Buses.

“The general public rely on Lothian Buses and can’t be expected to subsidise a controversial tram scheme.”

Read more: Lothian Buses set to hand council £20m to fund tram extension

A final decision on the £162 million tram scheme will not be taken until after the city council elections in May.

Paul Lawrence, executive director of place at the city council, told today’s transport and environment committee he was satisfied with Lothian Buses’ business plan.

He said: “The matter of payment for either an annual dividend or an extraordinary dividend is a matter for the board of Lothian Buses.

“In our view the business plan submitted to us is a prudent plan. It also sets out financial priorities for Lothian Buses that they can meet their business objectives.”

His comments come after the Unite union called on the city council to scrap plans to take the £20 million sum, claiming it would put the future of public transport in Edinburgh at risk.

They said members were so concerned that union branches at Lothian Buses, Edinburgh Trams, Edinburgh Bus Tours and Edinburgh City Council had formed a new group.

Unite’s People’s Transport User Services’ Watchdog aims to help branches share information and plan lobbying.

Tony Trench, Unite regional officer, said: “We plan for this new organisation to become a powerful voice, defending our members’ interests and acting as a watchdog to defend and promote affordable, good-quality publicly-owned transport in the city.”

Lothian Buses has been contacted for comment.