Bus driver gives theft guilty plea

Trevor Roberts - Managing Director of Blackpool Transport
Trevor Roberts - Managing Director of Blackpool Transport
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A BUS driver has admitted stealing almost £17,000 from Blackpool Transport’s staff benevolence fund.

Chris Ratcliffe, 52 of All Hallows Road, Bispham, pleaded guilty to seven counts of theft at Preston Crown Court on Thursday.

The former trade union official – who is no longer working for the company – will be sentenced on February 2.

The charges relate to the theft of cash from the Unite union benevolent fund between January 2004 and October last year.

Police launched an investigation after staff union bosses discovered the cash was missing from the account.

Workers who had pumped their hard earned cash into the scheme said they “felt sick” to think money has been taken

Today Trevor Roberts, director for Blackpool Transport (pictured), told The Gazette: “I can confirm this man is no longer an employee of Blackpool Transport.

“It would be inappropriate for us comment any further at this time.”

The fund was built up by workers who paid 20p a week into it to help colleagues facing financial hardship.

Payments were expected to be made to colleagues who are ill, retiring or been made redundant.

It is understood the fund was run by employee representatives without any involvement from management.

Although contributions are taken out of pay packets, the scheme was not directly connected to Blackpool Transport.

Today union officials from Blackpool Transport declined to comment on the case.

But one staff member, who asked not to be named, said: “People will be extremely relieved he has admitted to the theft.

“Staff were furious when they found out the fund had gone missing.

“They paid into it week after week to help colleagues who are struggling in good faith, the idea someone could steal from it made them so angry.

“People were talking about it for months, everybody thought the whole situation stank.”

Investigations into the missing money initially began in November last year when police were called in.

Financial investigators were drafted in to help the police with the inquiry and they submitted a report of their findings.

In March, Ratcliffe was interviewed on a voluntary basis and later reported for summons.