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Councillors clash over their influence over Cardiff Bus

Cardiff City Hall, where last night's meeting took place.

Cardiff City Hall, where last night’s meeting took place.

COUNCILLORS clashed last night as they discussed a proposal to reduce their influence on the board of Cardiff Bus.

The only motion of the extraordinary meeting was put forward by Joel Williams, Conservative councillor for Pontprennau and Old St Mellons.

He wants to cut the number of council representatives on the governance board from five to one – the council only agreed last November to reduce the number from seven to five.

Even before the meeting, Michael Michael, councillor for Trowbridge and cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and environment, said it would be a “bloodbath” and a waste of time costing around £5,000.

Matters boiled over as chair, Lord Mayor Dianne Elizabeth Rees, demanded councillors stick to the “topic at hand” and avoid attacks on individuals.

“That is totally out of order. Sit down,” she abruptly told councillor for Ely, Russell Goodway, as he accused the motion of being an “attack on workers’ rights”.

Coun Goodway, cabinet member for investment and development, told the Lord Mayor: “You are in real danger of taking the chair into disrepute.”

“And you are in real danger of a challenge to the chair and that has never happened in the history of this city,” said the Lord Mayor.

Monitoring officer Davina Fiore defended the chair and apologised if she had acted in an “uncourtly way” but that she “didn’t think that was the case”.

The motive behind the motion was questioned by Labour and other parties.

Council Leader Huw Thomas said Cardiff Bus had added two independent directors with a “wealth of experience” to fill positions previously held by the council representatives.

The Lord Mayor said: “The general public will be making some remarks about the behaviour displayed in the council this evening — and you will all be judged by that. Everyone.”

Why was the motion tabled?

Coun Williams tabled the motion to ensure board members had the relevant qualifications to tackle business challenges in the industry.

Cardiff Bus is running in a £1.9 million deficit and it recently proposed to cut several bus routes in the city.

Before the meeting started, Coun Williams said: “The current state of Cardiff Bus is concerning because the council own it. Running a private company, with a turnover of £13 million, needs the right skills.

“We need to go further because we have a duty to protect the interest of the vulnerable. The one council representative should be an appropriate cabinet member.”

He said an “equal opportunities process” would be used to obtain “relevant and qualified” people for the other four non-executive directors.

Speaking about the 86 service – a route that residents have petitioned to save – Coun Williams said: “Its removal is forcing residents in Lisvane to drive, but many can’t; we need the bus route to support them.”

Cardiff Bus recently proposed to scrap 12 services, including the number 86.

Speaking about the extra cost to change the board he said: “it’s a small cost for the process and to procure the executives, a fraction of the deficit. I think we need to do it.

When asked if the move would save all the routes proposed to be scrapped Coun Williams said: “That’s not for me to say.”

Peter Bradbury, councillor for Caerau, criticised the motion and said the council needed to give the board more time to make it work.

However, the motion received support from Fenella Bowden, Independent councillor for Heath, who urged the council to “take politics out of the decision”.

“Everybody should be supporting this motion,” she said.

Councillors who are not qualified should not be exposed to sitting on the board, highlighting the need for professional skills and experience, she added.

“It’s about all bus routes, it’s about saving Cardiff bus.”

The motion was not passed – 48 voting against while 16 voted for and two abstained.

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