Phil Stockley argues bus operators cannot be exempt from cuts.

Phil Stockley, the proprietor of Hampshire-based independent bus operator Velvet, has hit out at the response of much of the industry to changes that will be made to the Bus Service Operators Grant next month.

Writing on his blog, Stockley said that he could not support colleagues who had adopted a confrontational stance on the matter. He admitted that it was always going to be difficult for the industry to accept a reduction in subsidy, but in the context of cuts by other parts of government, and fears that BSOG may have been cut further or scrapped altogether, “the industry has got away far more lightly”.

“For Velvet, the reduction in BSOG will increase our total costs by 2%. Unwelcome certainly, but hardly the end of the world,” Stockley added.

“From some of the comments I have seen whistling about in the last few weeks, you would gain the impression that this will bring the industry to its knees,” he said. “Frankly, if the industry is in such a state that a 2% increase in its costs will have that effect, we are in a very poor state.”

Stockley admitted that it was likely that there would be a need for some fare rises to bridge the gap, but this would not need to be at a level that would drive away customers in significant numbers. “To be honest, with 18 months’ notice, I would hope that any commercially aware company would have been planning for this change long ago, and using the range of tools and skills at our disposal to improve our products and drive organic growth” he added.

Stockley continued: “There are those who would argue that by accepting this cut with minimal protest, we send the message that we are an easy target for further cuts in the future.

“By contrast, I would argue that by accepting that we cannot be exempt from reductions in public expenditure, we will demonstrate to the minister, to government as a whole that we can be trusted as responsible custodians of public money.

“The alternative position, to resist and oppose this cut, will portray us as negative and uncooperative.”

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