This could be our last chance to save Plymouth CityBus, says Labour Prospective Candidate for South West Devon, Luke Pollard. And with just 48 hours to save Plymouth’s unique public transport it’s no wonder people are out in force. Over to you Luke
Today I joined a demonstration organised by the Unite trade union against plans by the Tory Council to sell 100% of CityBus to Go-Ahead. In 48 hours councillors will vote whether to sell CityBus. The campaign against the sale has united people of every party against the sale – it is not just an issue that affects Labour voters!
The truth is that we’re not winning the campaign to keep CityBus public. Not because the campaign isn’t popular – it is; not because our alternatives to privatisation are not costed and affordable – because they are; not because the people of Plymouth aren’t backing us – because they are…but because the Tory Council and Cllr Vivien Pengelly, the Council Leader, in particular are refusing to listen and they have the majority on the Council. The Tories may have a mandate to govern but they have no mandate to sell CityBus – indeed, they were elected saying they would not sell CityBus.
It is so plain to see that selling CityBus is a bad decision, being pushed through too fast, without proper consultation or examination of alternatives. The bus company is being sold too cheaply and too fast. £20m may sound like a lot of money – it is – but the value of CityBus is considerably more than this.
By pushing through the sale quickly Cllr Pengelly, the Leader of the council, hopes voters will not know about the downsides of the sale. She hopes people will not find out that CityBus’ pensions deficit will not be taken on by the new owners but given to tax payers in Plymouth to finance. She hopes that people won’t notice that she is selling the Milehouse depot for £3m when only 18 months ago it was worth £20m. She hopes people won’t discover that her restrictions on job losses, route closures and fares will only last for a few months after the company is sold. She hopes people will ignore all these things and re-elect her at the coming election. How can this be right?
The whole CityBus episode smacks of all that is wrong with politics today. It is clear to me that the Tories in Plymouth haven’t learn a single lesson from the expense scandal. Politics needs to be closer to people – more in tune with their hopes, views and aspirations delivering services that they want and need. Selling CityBus does none of that – in fact it achieves the opposite.
From the diversion and denials from the Leader of the Council that she was planning to sell CityBus in public when she was toiling behind the scenes to sell the bus company to the way the Council has ignored the public’s legitimate call for involvement in the decision making – Plymouth’s Tories have shown their true colours.
I’m not an impartial observer. I believe strongly that Plymouth CityBus is better in public hands. This is not through an ideological belief that public is automatically better than private but from an analysis of the environment CityBus operates in. Put simply selling CityBus would lead to higher fares, fewer routes and job losses – and that is not good for the company or the thousands of people who rely on its service every day.
To deny that the negative consequences is like burying your head in the sand. If CityBus is to be sold for £20m – too cheap in my mind – then the private company will need to make savings to achieve a return on their investment. Savings means job losses, higher fares and route closures. CityBus will answer to private shareholders interested in profits and dividends not the people interested in value for money and service.
I joined the protest today with drivers and mechanics from CityBus, bus users, people from every political party and my fellow Labour Party members to show our anger at Tory plans to sell the bus company on Monday. Read the coverage on the BBC website.
Let me be clear about this – Labour would not sell CityBus.
All Labour’s Councillors on Plymouth City Council will vote to keep CityBus owned by the people of Plymouth. The Tory Councillors will vote to sell the company. They will win and CityBus will be sold unless you can persuade Tory Councillors to vote with their hearts and with the people they are supposed to represent and vote against plans to sell CityBus. Please can you help persuade your local Tory Councillor to stop the sale.
We have 48 hours left to persuade Tory Councillors to vote with the people and against these plans.
We know that many Conservative councillors oppose these plans but are being ‘strongly encouraged’ to vote for them. The weight of public opinion is the only weapon we have left. To those readers from Plymouth I ask you please to contact your local Councillor and ask them to oppose plans to sell CityBus. Find out who your local councillor is.
• Luke Pollard is Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South West Devon. Visit his website Visit his website.