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Bus chief says jobs will go at company

A vintage bus belonging to Classic Bus North West

A vintage bus belonging to Classic Bus North West

Bosses at a Blackpool bus company today admitted they will have to axe jobs because of financial difficulties.

Classic Bus North West (CBNW) scrapped its number 80 bus service, running between Blackpool and Preston, before Christmas.

It had only just taken control of the route from Lancashire County Council on December 9 after a previous subsidised service was ended by the authority.

Since then, workers at the firm have claimed half of the company’s 30 drivers have lost their jobs, with some saying they are still owed money.

But Philip Higgs, the owner of CBNW, said in a statement that while there would be job losses, the figure would be much less than claimed.

However, he admitted financial difficulties had affected the company’s “ability to keep pace with payroll obligations.”

Driver Mel Morris, 39, of Anchorsholme Lane, Cleveleys, said she faced a real danger of being forced out of her rented home because she is still owed wages.

The mother-of-two added: “My first pay packet was fine, but then it started getting broken up into two or three instalments. I am a single parent - I have a 14-year-old, Nicole and an 18-year-old, Hannah, both in full-time education. We are absolutely penniless - I have got nothing.

“I have an appointment next week to sign on.”

Fellow staff member Wendy Akar, 56, of Clifton Drive, South Shore, said redundancy letters were presented to staff just days after Mr Higgs went on holiday for the festive period.

“We got a letter the day after saying our employment would be terminated,” she said.

Staff were given the letters at the end of their shifts confirming CBNW would cease to run its 80 service with immediate effect.

The service had been running seven days a week, with the county council subsidising evening and Sunday services between Poulton and Preston.

Mr Higgs (pictured) told The Gazette CBNW was forced to cease trading after a meeting with the finance company which underwrites its Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) financial standing, but denied claims about job losses, saying redundancy figures were not as high as suggested.

He added: “We regret having to terminate service 80 at such short notice, but we could not continue to operate since to do so would could have invalidated insurance and our licence obligations.

“The decision was taken against a background of increasing amounts owed to the business and losses on the bus refurbishment side of the company, affecting cash flow and our ability to keep pace with payroll obligations. As an example, we are owed a significant amount from central Government for reimbursement of fuel tax - had this arrived before Christmas then we wouldn’t be in the position we are today.

“Some staff have been laid off and it is likely that there will be eight redundancies.

“The decision does not affect service 22, which operates on a separate operators’ licence, and we are now working closely with our principal stakeholders to develop a fresh and sustainable operation through Oakwood Travel Services Ltd.

“There is never a good time to break news of redundancy to staff and particularly at Christmas time, but the best performing drivers will continue in employment on service 22 where their friendliness to passengers is often commented upon.”

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