Buses 'will bear brunt of Scottish council cuts'


Cash-strapped Scottish councils dealing with the impact of soaring inflation and a huge pay rise for workers can hope to preserve their existing road networks but bus services are likely to be cut, a key figure in the sector has warned.

Ewan Wallace chair of the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) Climate Change Steering Group and the organisation’s immediate past chair, told Road Expo that local authorities that will shortly be receiving their allocations from the Scottish Government will as usual have education and health at the top of their priority list.

He added: ‘This year will be a bit different because we have to deal with the inflationary pressures and the largest wage settlement we have seen in certainly my working life – I’ve never seen the scale of what we’re seeing at the moment – and that will mean that there will be less cash available.’

Mr Wallace said his members working for Scottish local road authorities are good at getting value for money: ‘We look at every pound. And there’s a reason for that. It’s not because we are tight Scotsmen. It’s because we get scrutinised a lot.’

But he said it had been identified in the past that Scottish councils needed ‘the core funding that allows us to have certainty’.

Mr Wallace is a chief officer at Aberdeenshire Council. Asked by Transport Network where he thought councils will prioritise reduced funding, he said: ‘As a chief officer within a large authority, we go into the budget discussions knowing that education, health and social care will be at the top.

‘That seems reasonable. But we’ve still got some hope that, at the very least, we’ll be able to manage and maintain the networks that we have, preserve what we have, and if we can get some better outcomes, so much the better.'

He added: ‘Most of the discussions with our colleagues will be about…that five or ten year capital programme, how do you manage that asset?

‘The more difficult [issue] is the support to the wider transport network, so support for local bus services. That is the area where the impact could be significant in terms of a whole range of other social aspects. If you [cut funding] there will be fewer services.

‘Meanwhile, we have, quite correctly in my mind, the [free bus travel for] under-22s scheme – a real success. But it’s only any use if you have actually got a service to use.’

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