Council bus fare will still come out of your pocket

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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Slowly, surely, entirely as predicted, the apparently inarguable case crafted by Preston Council to justify demolition of that city’s bus station crumbles under scrutiny.

No surprise to readers of this column (a number in the low teens, family, friends, pets and certain council leaders), of course, where such an eventuality was flagged up in December.

Credit due for this insight amounts to precisely nil. No sensible person who gave even a moment’s thought to their proposals can have come away with answers outweighing questions.

Most crucially – an elephant in the room – being whether or not Lancashire County Council is really in a position to throw eight figures at replacing infrastructure which, though perhaps far from ideal, remains fully functioning (and is still, I understand, the busiest bus terminal outside London)? Really?

The same authority now seeking £200m of cuts jeopardising who knows what vital services?

Can you see Geoff Driver unveiling plans to reduce support for carers and close libraries but adding: ‘The good news is that we DO have £12m to help enable an ill conceived and unpopular regeneration plan.’

PCC, throughout Tithebarn and still today, have invariably

relied upon LCC (and, for a time, North West Regional Agency) cash underwriting their demolition derby – in lieu of private sector funding – and have cheerfully bandied said numbers as if they believe the sole matter of financial concern is how much will it cost PCC.

Almost as if they had forgotten that neither LCC nor NWDA nor PCC actually has any cash. They are merely public bodies entrusted to administer OUR cash, meaning WE pay WHOEVER signs the cheque.

News of the £200m Sword of Damocles over LCC jobs and our services should focus all minds in this regard.

For reasons unclear and curious, redevelopment of the Tithebarn site remains the consuming focus, even as perhaps more immediately viable areas of the city’s historic retail area hang on for dear life. Why?

Well, the recent LCC report on the bus station was compiled by a global firm with historic links to Lend Lease, which last year bought a huge stake in Lend Lease, which trades in various territories under the name Jacobs Lend Lease.

Er, are Lend Lease wielding some unspecified influence? LCC have been asked how Jacobs came to be engaged.

Thus far no reply.

Questions have also been put to PCC, via Freedom of Information request, for details of specific asset transfers which took place prior to the collapse of Preston Tithebarn Partnership.

I await their response with barely contained ennui, and grimly anticipate revealing that all such information is commercially sensitive so keep your nosy beak out, pleb.