Row erupts over proposed bus sell-off

TEMPERS flared during a heated debate over a proposal to sell a stake in Ipswich Buses to transport giant Go Ahead.

Paul Geater

TEMPERS flared during a heated debate over a proposal to sell a stake in Ipswich Buses to transport giant Go Ahead.

The debate at the borough council's meeting last night came on the day that Ipswich MP and Transport Minister Chris Mole joined the row.

Mr Mole said: “It is clear from what people are saying to me, they value and want to hold on to this popular bus company.


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“I've recently written to constituents who previously contacted me about bus services and no one who has got back to me about this proposal supports what the Conservative/LibDem administration is doing.”

Speaking at the meeting council deputy leader John Carnall defended the proposal to sell off a minority stake in the company, saying the support of a transport giant would bring economies of scale to Ipswich Buses.

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“We are also doing what Gordon Brown is telling us to do - realising our assets. Last October he told the government and local authorities to try to raise money in this way.

“We are doing what the Labour government wants us to do. This will be good for passengers and good for Ipswich.”

However, Labour group leader David Ellesmere said that selling off a large chunk of the bus company would mean that it would no longer be operated for the good of the people of Ipswich.

“It will be driven by the need to make profits to provide dividends for shareholders,” he said.

LibDem councillor and Ipswich Buses director Richard Atkins said the presence of Go Ahead as a shareholder would act as a “White Knight” protecting the company if another company tried to run it into the ground - as has happened in other cities.

However, former Ipswich Buses chairman Phil Smart warned that the arrival of another transport giant like Go Ahead could prompt other companies to start a price war in the town.

The council voted to support the sale of a stake to Go Ahead after the original motion was amended.

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