The purchase of an as yet unnamed bus company has been backed by cabinet with discussions to get under way as quickly as possible.
Cabinet members went into private session to discuss the proposal to buy the business assets – including land and buildings – of the bus company in a bid to keep school and local routes running.
Coming back into to public discussion, cabinet member with responsibility for infrastructure Cllr Phil Baker said that a “strategic rethink” was needed on providing these strategic services in light of a “fragile” industry worsened by the covid-19 pandemic.
The council has been running some bus services “in-house” where there had been no competition or no interest and has a statutory duty to provide home to school transport and socially necessary public transport.
Transport manager Hubert Mathias said “from the operator’s point of view he wants out as soon as possible,” with initial discussions of such a proposal taking place prior to the pandemic.
Cllr Baker added that this was the first stage of the process and there is “still a substantial percentage of work to be done on this yet.”
The company to be bought provides 23 school routes and six public routes at a cost of £900,000 a year, with the potential for a new contract to cost an additional £300,000 but bringing it in house there is predicted to be “minimal additional costs compared to our existing contract.”
Head of infrastructure Darren Thomas added on Monday that the proposal aimed to “minimise the risk to the authority in terms of cost exposure.”
Cabinet approved in principle the acquisition of the business assets, and the progression of negotiations, with the final decision delegated to the cabinet member in consultation with the director of community services, following due diligence by finance, property and legal teams.
A recommendation that cabinet will need to determine at a future meeting the maximum bid for any potential purchase and how it will be funded as well as any capital bid required was also approved.