Wiltshire Council defends free staff bus service
The Wiltshire Council minibus waiting at Trowbridge railway station, one of the pick-up points, to take staff to its Shurnhold offices
Wiltshire Council has defended the £38,000-a-year ‘taxi’ service it runs for staff between County Hall in Trowbridge and Shurnhold in Melksham.
For around two years, a council minibus has been making 10 each-way journeys daily between Bradley Road, Trowbridge, and the Melksham offices, collecting staff along the way.
The service was brought to the Wiltshire Times’ attention by businessman Paul Jones, who spotted the bus waiting at Trowbridge Train Station to pick up Wiltshire Council employees on Tuesday morning.
Mr Jones, who runs Arke Limited, based at Heywood House, said: “I discovered it was taxi-ing staff to work. Why should the taxpayer have to cover to this?”
The bus, which costs roughly £150 to run per day and around £38,000 per year, was agreed by the council with its staff as part of their ‘temporary relocation package’ when workers moved offices while £22m worth of improvements are made to County Hall.
Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott said: “As part of our transformation programme we asked some staff to work in Melksham.
“We knew some of them wouldn’t have easily been able to get to there, so we provided a minibus.”
Yesterday morning, during the bus’ first trip of the day, it only carried five people with a possible 16 seats available.
The car park at the council’s Bradley Road offices was empty, with a council spokes-man claiming the bus also aimed to encourage staff not to park at County Hall.
Wiltshire Councillor Stuart Wheeler, cabinet member for transformation, culture, leisure and libraries, said: “We are updating our offices at County Hall and with the loss of desks we opened the offices in Melksham in the meantime.
"The minibus is a way of getting people backwards and forwards for meetings in Trowbridge and personally I think it’s useful system.
“If we have got people working between 8am-6pm I don’t think 10 trips a day is all that much.”
In recent years Wiltshire Council has cut funding for local charity organisations and some believe the £38,000 should be spent elsewhere.
Amanda Wilkes, service manager for Trowbridge-based HELP counselling services, said: “I think the idea to reduce the number of cars on the road is good, but when charities like ours have been appealing for funding this seems a lot of money for the council to be spending.”