Concerns have been raised over plans to hand over cash raised from bus lane fines to help the UK’s biggest bus operator improve its services in Aberdeen.
A taxpayer group hit out yesterday after a proposal was put forward to give a portion of the money raised from motorists using the wrong lanes to First Bus as it continues to operate in the city.
The suggestion was made during a meeting this week between more than 600 residents from Craigiebuckler and Airyhall and the operator to talk about cuts to services.
Residents said they had been left “isolated” after First’s evening and Sunday services were scrapped three years ago, and now that the number 5 service would no longer operate in their area.
First Bus has agreed to re-examine services in the communities – and local councillor Ross Thomson said one way forward was to give public money gathered through the city council’s bus lane enforcement scheme to help First deliver a better service to the area.
The First Aberdeen base is one of very few local authorities who do not provide funding for “socially necessary” bus services.
However, the proposition has been slammed by public money watchdog, Taxpayer Scotland.
A spokesman said: “There is a temptation in using the fines to forget the original problem, which is in this case that the bus services are not designed correctly for the areas they serve.
“Cross-subsidising buses is the thin end of a wedge, where fines become used as a revenue stream on a regular basis.
“The temptation of abusing fines for other special interests worries us.”
An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said using such funds for this purpose would be reviewed.
“Consideration as to what Bus Lane Enforcement money could be used is reviewed as part of the council’s annual budget process,” she said.
“If there are specific projects or spend on which it could be used then this would be reported as part of this process.
“It would then be up to the finance, policy and resources committee to decide on the future use of these monies.”
Last night, a First Bus spokeswoman said it would “welcome” any opportunity for supported bus services, which it said was “very small” in Aberdeen unlike other places across Scotland.
“That however is a decision that rests purely with the council,” she said.
“At present our focus is working in partnership with all our stakeholders to see our investment in our network and fleet matched with the bus priority and infrastructure improvements required to speed up journey times and ultimately encourage more people to swap the car for the bus.”