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Easdales' Bus Firm Awarded £9m Contracts
THE bus firm owned by Rangers directors James and Sandy Easdale has been awarded a package of 20 contracts to run subsidised routes previously operated by a defunct Lanarkshire company, at an extra cost to the taxpayer of more than £130,000 annually.
Greenock-based McGill's Buses will be paid £9,084,544 over three years to take over the running of 53 SPT bus services in the Lanarkshire, Glasgow and East Dunbartonshire areas after undercutting the next cheapest bidder by £10,000.
However, it is understood that the total cost of the public subsidies needed to operate the routes will still be £132,000 per annum higher than when they were run by the previous operator, Henderson Travel, which went bust in October.
Councillor David McDonald, deputy leader of the SNP opposition at Glasgow City Council, said the situation had left taxpayers out of pocket.
He said: "Once again SPT are playing fast and loose with public funds.
"Although McGill's are the cheapest bidder for these 20 contracts, the public are still set to lose out by more than £100,000 per annum.
"Those responsible for the mismanagement of these contracts should be investigated to ensure such a waste of public money is avoided in future".
Questions were previously raised over the transparency of SPT tendering procedures after it emerged that Eric Stewart, the assistant chief executive in charge of operations, was able to award £5 million worth of contracts to Henderson Travel without declaring that his son, Neil Stewart, was a senior employee at the firm.
SPT denied any impropriety and said that Mr Stewart had lodged the potential conflict in its internal - but private - register of interests, and was not required to declare it publicly during meetings.
Neil Stewart is now employed at McGill's, although it is understood that he does not hold a senior position.
McGill's was among five bus companies which submitted bids to Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) to take over the routes permanently. The duration of the contracts range from 17 to 41 months. Until now the firm has had no significant presence in the Lanarkshire area.
Ralph Roberts, managing director of McGill's, said: "The contract win brings job security for the 100 staff who took up McGill's offer of employment in late October, following the sudden closure of Henderson Travel."
Mr Roberts added that McGill's, which currently employs more than 700 staff at bases in Greenock, Inchinnan, Johnstone and Barrhead, would now forge ahead with plans to open their fifth depot.
A spokeswoman for SPT said: "We can confirm that McGill's Buses has been awarded a package of 20 contracts to run local subsidised bus services at a value of just over £9 million."