Councillors in Lothian have expressed concerns about the potential impact of Edinburgh Council’s request for a dividend of £20m from the publicly-owned Lothian Buses.
Edinburgh City Council has a 91% stake in Lothian Buses, while Midlothian Council has a stake of just over 5% and the two other Lothian authorities own the remainder.
The dividend would be put towards extending the city’s tram network.
An tram and bus in Edinburgh
At a meeting of Midlothian Council, members were told that leader Catherine Johnstone and her counterparts at East and West Lothian councils had written a joint letter to Edinburgh, raising concerns about the potential impact the move could have on local bus services.
In reply, Edinburgh leader Andrew Burns, wrote: ‘If the City of Edinburgh Council thought that this Lothian Buses request would undermine growth potential by placing demands to provide dividends over and above those which the business can sustain .... then we most certainly would not have made the request in the first place.’
Midlothian Scottish Green Party councillor Ian Baxter told Transport Network: ‘I’m not against the trams. I think trams are great - but they’re bleeding the buses to pay for the trams and I don’t think that’s right.’
He said: ‘The think is that we’ve seen services in Midlothian cut. The services to Midlothian are constantly being reviewed and in many cases have been cut back.
'We would like to see that money used to invest in services across the Lothians. There’s huge scope for investment across the Lothians, for Lothian buses.’
Mr Baxter also cited reports that Edinburgh may not need the extraordinary dividend if money from the Edinburgh City Deal funded its proposed tram extension to and beyond Leith.
He added that while new trams in Edinburgh would not benefit the other Lothian councils, in order for Edinburgh to receive a dividend of £20m, other councils would by law have to receive a dividend proportionate to their shareholdings in Lothian buses.
A spokesperson for Edinburgh council told Transport Network: ‘Lothian Buses have committed to exploring the potential for submitting an extraordinary dividend and we await further feedback as part of their 2017 – 2020 Strategic Plan.’
Last month Transport Network reported that Transport for Edinburgh, which oversees both Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams tightened internal security protocols after a spying scandal that highlighted tensions between the two services.
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