Catching the fast bus to privatisation?

Borough bosses are engaged in a race against time as they try to sell of part of the town's bus company to transport giant Go Ahead.

IPSWICH: Borough bosses are engaged in a race against time as they try to sell of part of the town's bus company to transport giant Go Ahead.

The borough's executive voted this week to sell a minority stake - which could be anything up to 49 per cent - to the company which operates bus and train businesses across the country.

They have three months to seal an agreement - a deadline which takes the borough very close to May's local council elections.

Members of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration at Grafton House fear their majority could be under threat and are anxious to get the deal completed by then.


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Deputy leader John Carnall said: “We have had some preliminary negotiations, but there will still need to be a lot of talks over the next few months.

“Nothing has yet been decided, and the size of the stake to be sold is part of the negotiations.”

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The council's minority Labour group has demanded the decision should be reviewed by the scrutiny committee, which will further delay the start of negotiations.

Group leader David Ellesmere suspected that the administration would try to reach a quick agreement with Go Ahead to get the deal finalised before the elections.

He added: “We suspect they expect a future Conservative government will demand that councils sell off any transport businesses they own - and that will enable Go Ahead to come back and take full control of Ipswich Buses.”

Mr Carnall said that the support of a larger group would enable Ipswich Buses to take advantages of economies of scale - especially when buying new vehicles.

But Mr Ellesmere was doubtful: “A profit-making company like Go Ahead would have to put its shareholders first rather than running services for the benefit of the community.”

Should part of Ipswich Buses be sold? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk>

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