Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Nexus' Contract Scheme Pushes Forward

 Nexus House might become much busier if the
Quality Contract scheme is approved. Many local
 authority run organisations seem to relish the
idea of building large teams of people to shuffle
paper and micro manage without actually
achieving quality.

Here is a statement from NEBOA on yesterday's decision by the Leadership Board of the North East Combined Authority to proceed to the next stage of Nexus' contract scheme:

Kevin Carr, Chair of the North East Bus Operators' Association (NEBOA),
said: "We are very disappointed, but not surprised, at the decision to
press on with the contract scheme. Nexus has convinced the leaders to take a huge gamble, needing an £80 million contingency fund on top of £51 million in guaranteed funding every year. It’s not the best way of securing vital bus services for communities in Tyne and Wear.

"This is the third set of bus contracts proposals and every one has been
riddled with mistakes and financial flaws. The latest Nexus proposals don't offer a single extra bus or any expansion of the bus network. Bus
passengers in Tyne and Wear deserve better than this scheme, which will
lead to higher fares, worse bus services and higher council tax bills.

"In contrast, bus operators have made a clear offer to work constructively
with the authority and local councils. We have promised to deliver smart
ticketing, lower fares, more buses, a greater say for local people in their
bus network, as well as saving money for local taxpayers. We stand by that offer. The fact that we are already delivering many elements of it shows how committed we are to putting passengers first."

Following the decision by the North East Combined Authority (NECA), the bus contracts proposals will be referred to an independent board chaired by a traffic commissioner and supported by two industry experts. The board will rule on whether the correct process has been followed in developing the bus contracts scheme and if the plans pass five key public interest tests.

Mr Carr added: "Today's decision is not final. We expect a far more
rigorous examination of the bus contracts proposals by the independent
review board. The board has a duty to determine whether these plans meet key legal, economic and value for money tests. We do not believe these tests have been met and we will make robust arguments to the review board to demonstrate this. Unless all of the tests have been met, the bus contracts scheme as it stands cannot be implemented.

"In any case, there is no evidence that the current system of delivering
bus services has failed the North East. On the contrary, it has one of the
highest levels of bus use and customer satisfaction in the country. Our
plans would make the bus network even stronger."

Focus Comment 
The not unexpected decision to refer the proposed scheme to the next stage, moves closer to the day when taxpayers could be saddled with the financial risks of running all bus services in Tyne & Wear.
At a time when many local authorities are abandoning the subsidy of local bus services, those promoting this scheme seem to have found large sums of public money to promote it, using facts and figures that can (and will) be challenged. 
It could be argued that they should have focused on spending the money sensibly, on supporting local services that fall outside the scope of those run commercially. In doing so they would serve the local communities in ways that give direct benefits to their taxpayers and not come up with ideas that appear to take them beyond their capabilities.