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Bus services saved from axe in Brighton and Hove
Under-threat bus services to hospitals, schools and suburban areas are to be reinstated – thanks to an "administrative error".
Hundreds of people signed petitions to save their services after Brighton and Hove City Council decided not to fund 12 non-commercial routes as it looks to tackle Government cuts.
However, leaked papers from a behind-the-scenes town hall meeting show the Green administration has found funding for some of the routes.
The rest will be operated commercially.
Council leader Jason Kitcat told The Argus: “It was a genuine error.
"It's unfortunate but it just so happens that overall it means we will be able to fund non-commercial routes over four years.
"The key thing is that by going down this route of procurement we have flushed out which services could be run on a commercial basis."
The key to the deal is the awarding of a shortened 52 route between Brighton Marina and Ovingdean to the Big Lemon company.
Leaked town hall papers show it was originally awarded to Brighton and Hove Bus Company for about £170,000 a year.
However a bid from the Big Lemon said it would do the same route for about £110,000.
Papers discussed by the local authority said this was not originally considered due to an "administrative error".
The £14,000 cost for Brighton and Hove Buses to operate 21B and 81A will be found from the savings from the 52 route.
A further £46,000 of savings will mean they can save the 81 Monday to Saturday evening service.
The 74 and 96 school bus routes will be kept for a year while other options are looked at.
The revised deal was agreed at a closed part of the council's policy and resources committee yesterday (July 12).
The council's policy and resources committee agreed last month to not fund a number of services from September.
It included the removal of funding for winter Sunday evening services which run after 6pm. Brighton and Hove Buses have confirmed they will continue to run four of these - 22, 24, 26, 27 - on a commercial basis.
Tom Druitt, who runs the Big Lemon and is a Green party member, said The Argus contacting him yesterday afternoon was the first he had heard of the revised deal.
He added: "I do not know anything about this. I have not been told about any administrative error.
"We put in tenders in exactly the same way that other bus companies did. I got a letter three or four weeks ago saying we have been unsuccessful. We have not done any deal with anyone."
Opposition councillors have asked to see the paperwork from which the decision were made.
A request from Conservative councillor Geoffrey Theobald to discuss the bus contracts in open was rejected by the Green administration.
Coun Theobald said: “I’m delighted that the pressure we have been putting on the Greens over this has paid off.
"However, many questions still remain."
Labour councillor Gill Mitchell said: "We broadly welcome the news that since speaking to the bus company and getting an offer from them to run some services commercially that the council has found the funding for the other routes.
"It has forced an almost complete u-turn from the administration."
Both opposition groups said they were disappointed at the loss of a direct route from Ovingdean to the city centre.
The council report said while letters had gone out, no formal contracts had been signed.
The successful bus firms are due to be told today (July 13).
The following bus services were affected but have now been saved:
- 21B, 27, 81A, 26, 22 and 24 which run after 6pm on Sundays between September and May (Brighton and Hove buses);
- 52 from the city centre via the Royal Sussex to Ovingdean and Woodingdean (£63,000). Sunday services will continue with the 57. A new contract will operate from Brighton Marina to Ovingdean and Woodingdean, Monday to Saturday will be run by Big Lemon, not by Brighton and Hove buses as originally agreed;
- 81 Monday to Saturday evenings from Old Steine to Goldstone Valley (B&H);
- 96 on school days from Carden Avenue via Westdene to Blatchington Mill School (B&H, one year only);
- 74 on school days from Lewes Road via Bevendean and Coldean to Patcham (B&H, one year only)