Bus operator admits jobs will be lost

A vintage bus belonging to Classic Bus North West
A vintage bus belonging to Classic Bus North West
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A bus operator has suspended trading and admitted it will need to make staff redundant due to financial difficulties.

Classic Bus North West (CBNW) suddenly axed its No. 80 bus service, running between Blackpool and Preston via Poulton and Great Eccleston, before Christmas.

It only took control of the route from Lancashire County Council on December 9, after a former subsidised service operated by Cumfybus was ended by the authority.

County Hall chiefs said the Blackpool-based operator had terminated the service without the required 56 days notice to the Traffic Commissioner.

Workers said half of the firm’s 30 drivers and 15 administration staff had been sacked with no notice and were still owed thousands of pounds.

However, the firm’s owner Philip Higgs, who has been out of the country on holiday, denied the claims.

He said the decision to suspend trading was taken on December 18 after consultation with the finance company which underwrites CBNW’s “VOSA financial standing and invoice discounting facilities”.

He said: “The service being operated on the CBNW Ltd licence was therefore suspended, affecting service 80 and Lancashire County Council were informed.

“We regret having to terminate service 80 at such short notice, but we could not continue to operate, since to do so 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 wife of one driver, who did not wish to be named, said after finishing his shift on December 20 he was given a pre-printed letter telling him he was to be made redundant.

She said: “He has not had his wages despite promises, no P45 not even a pay slip.

“A few weeks ago all the drivers were called in on a Sunday morning for a meeting and told the situation, but that things would improve.

“Mr Higgs is away on holiday while drivers are struggling to make ends meet.”

Mr Higgs said a No. 22 service operated by Oakwood Travel Services Ltd, which links the South Shore areas of Blackpool with its town centre, Claremont, Bispham and Cleveleys, would not be affected.

He added: “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.

“Wages owed to staff will be honoured.”

Before operating commercial bus routes, CBNW had hired out a fleet of refurbished vehicles for events such as weddings and proms since 2007.