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The truths they don't want you to read....

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bus contracts

The Comhairle bus contacts and the operation of the bus DSO has always been a major source of controversy over the losses incurred (p48), and the management of the service.

This week the DSO has been handed the contracts that it currently holds, without competitive tendering, whilst all the other routes have gone out for competitive tendering on the 'normal' basis.

At least 'normal' as I use the word. It appears to have a different meaning for other people.

The authority to avoid the tendering process was apparently approved directly by the Chief Executive, who believes that these particular tenders do not need to go out for competitive bids.

One bus operator* has told me that he was informed by an officer in the Comhairle that this course of action had been approved by Audit Scotland. As any fule kno, Audit Scotland review decisions after the event, and not in advance, so this would appear to be a strange (one might suggest 'dissembling') response.

But more than that, the Councillors were advised of the matter only after the event, and without any possibility of discussing the matter. Let me make that clear - as far as I know the vast majority of Councillors knew nothing until after the event. Can any Councillor confirm just exactly who took the decisions and approved this course of action?

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the decision, and if someone can send me the papers to allow me to understand the rights and wrongs - the Comhairle have nothing to hide, do they? - the perception is that the routes have been cherry-picked using the information from previous operators and public subsidy from HiTrans to stifle private enterprise.

One look at the 2007 Key Tasks of the Comhairle can only cause bus operators to choke "Re-tender all bus contracts within appropriate timescale".

"Appropriate" adj. not when inappropriate
"Timescale" n. never

* Clients of the firm run bus services, but (afaik) none are affected by this decision.

Bus na ComhairleThe 2305 to Point departs from the Crit.


Anonymous said...

AFAIK the services need to be put out to competitive tender, the only way to avoid doing so is if they were paying an existing operator a de minimis payment (a relatively low sum) to keep an existing bus service running when it would otherwise have to be put out to tender at an increased cost, clearly not the case here.

I was lead to believe that they were carrying out a revue of all bus operations and re-tendering for summer 2009.

Anonymous said...

if the Comhairle are out to make more money for themselves and stifle opposition even if it disadvantages the islands - then it doesnt surprise me in the slightest!

Anonymous said...

Sooo shifty!

Anonymous said...

With the Health Board yet again in finacial disarray, your Councillors collectively sitting on the fence and worse still not spending capital funds, a Council where nepotism and persoanl favours is the main criteria to get a job, HIE/WIE wasting £K by the 1000 and now HHP in debt and chased by UBC, an MSP whose sole concern in life is a totally minority language and an utterly disorinated bigoted set of religious groupings and alledged community trusts who manipulate to their al (pause) is it not time to reflect that perhaps you guys are not fit to run your own Islands. Before long the current government will forget its attempts to rile the English and look around over their shoulders at the tax burdon the Islands have become.

Anonymous said...

Can I just throw my hat in the ring here. Instead of 'dissing' the council, for once I'd like to say a big thank you. We've got a first rate bus service, the fares are low in comparison to what I used to pay on the mainland, and for the most part, the drivers to a man (or woman or otherwise..) are courteous, a good craic and keen to lend a hand when needed. Let's be thankful for what we have for a change instead of constantly whingeing on. At least on the Council operation, if I have a problem, I can phone a dedicated line and get a response and my complaint listened to. How does it disadvantage the islands to have the council run a bus service? The fares are the same across all the buses, and the council drivers are probably better paid than the other drivers. If it's bringing more money into the island economy, then good luck to them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon 6:28. The council on the whole provides a very good bus service, although I hear there may be major cutbacks in the runs next year.

How often it is that those who bitch on about the buses as they watch them going by almost empty are the very people you will never see on a bus.

And of course councillors don't "do buses" :-)

Anonymous said...

Well said 6:28.

Anonymous said...

Right on! Sod the cost.

I think we should extent Bus na Comhairle in a fleet of 100 stretch limos running every 5 minutes along each and every route.

Built in swimming pools and a free bar in each limo would certainly increase usage.

Or we could save money, close BnC and hire taxis for the few passengers.

Anonymous said...

Sod the cost eh? Close Bus na Comhairle and what would we get? A second rate service along with drivers and other support staff out of work. If you take into account the amount of work done behind the scenes of BNC along with the cost of running the service I think you will find that closing BNC would not save money in the long run. What do you want? Stagecoach running the show with the autonomy to dictate their own timetable and fares? As for few passengers, I suggest that you actually go down to the bus station and see just how 'few' passengers there are. Do you actually use BNC regularly? I would suggest that if you did you would support it and the people who provide the service rather than running it down. I'm old enough to remember when it was not a council run operation and believe me, you don't want to go back to those 'good old days'.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:23, your flippancy is pointless, boring and unhelpful.

Anonymous said...

If bus services are drastically cut back, there will be further depopulation.

Many people rely heavily on these buses, whatever arrogant commenters like anon 9.23 say.

It's a good service and long may it stay that way.

Anonymous said...

Refardless of the cost, the principle is that the bus services should be put out to tender. That means that they specify the routes, the times and the fares. If the tenderees don't like it then they don't have to take it. What the council can't do is what it did regarding the lighting contract and crighton.
It is breaking this principle that is the problem with the council.

Anonymous said...

Who said that the Comhairle are not providing a good bus service?

I think the issue here is whether or not the rules on tendering are being adhered to.

Anonymous said...

The rules on tendering are so obtuse that even a half-decent lawyer can find a way to get round them. We are no longer in the days of Compulsory Competitive Tendering, where council services have to go out to tender.

The bus service needs to run; islanders need buses. The Comhairle doesn't 'make money' out of the buses - it makes a loss, mostly because it pays the drivers decent wages.

What do you all want - bus drivers out of a job, and one bus every alternate Thursday? Public services cost money and almost no-one's making a profit from them. Perhaps the Coouncil did this because no-one wanted to bid for the routes......

Anonymous said...

Well said, Anon 6.07pm. There's only a couple of firms operating that could realistically bid for the runs the council currently do. In this current economic climate, the capital they would need to inject in order to purchase sufficient vehicles to do the job, and the cost of additional staff (no doubt council bus drivers at a reduced rate) would be prohibitive. Anyone with half a brain could see that the BNC operation is not profitable - as someone said, half empty buses. BNC are providing a public service at a loss. Can you see any of the private companies doing the same? Can you see any bank stepping up to offer them the funding - knowing that the services would be run at a loss? Support the BNC operation by getting out of your cars and using the service instead of constantly moaning about it, or how it is run.

Anonymous said...

Bus services operate in a deregulated environment and any non commercial operation deemed socially necessary by the local authority needs to be put out to competitive tender, even if the only bidder is the arms length operation owned by the local authority.

Anonymous said...

You need to appreciate the reasons behind the creation of BnC to get the full picture. It was originally created to destroy the private monopoly on Lewis bus services held by Lochs Motors.

CNES is (rightly) terrified of an Orkney type of set up where one operator builds up a monopoly through competitive tendering and is then in a position to hold the council to ransom.

However, in typical CNES fashion, Bus na Comhairle has been a shambles from the beginning. Unlike any of our private operators it has been hauled before the Traffic Commissioners for breaking numerous laws. It also was outbid in 2004 by Hebridean Transport but retained it's contracts through some good old fashioned manouvering behind closed doors.

The latest carry on is just another attempt by CNES to get itself out of the crap it got itself into. As per usual, it is legally dubious and morally outrageous.

The lack of advance knowledge by councillors is because, as most of us know, the officials run the show in Stornoway - NOT our elected councillors! To his eternal credit Manford seems to be the only one to speak out.

Please note the above is just my opinion..........