PROFIT driven private companies should not run public services, according to a Clacks councillor frustrated with First Bus.

Cllr Bryan Quinn was one of many representatives calling on the company to get a grip on services in the Wee County when an urgent item was heard on the matter at last week's council meeting.

A motion by council leader Ellen Forson has recognised the significant level of ongoing daily cancellations of services operated by First Bus with concerns over the impact it is having.

She spoke of the misery caused for constituents and told the virtual Kilncraigs chamber: "First is the only service that operates on these routes and therefore they hold quite a significant monopoly and really hold people to hostage.

"This morning, for example, going out of Clackmannanshire there wasn't a bus for over an hour which meant that significant numbers of constituents were late for their work and I'm receiving feedback that that's having an impact where employers are starting to take action against employees who are not able to get to their work in time and I think that is not acceptable.

"Some people are having to pay for taxis to get to their work and this is costing more than they actually earn in a day, which is not acceptable.”

She said Covid recovery government aid should be used by the company to support services in the Wee County.

The council leader said she was aware of a drivers' shortage but added that “discussions have to be had with them on the impact that it's having”.

She was to meet the company last week and has instructed council officers to engage with First to see if the council can offer practical support.

The council leader will also write to the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland to highlight the situation.

On the issue of staffing levels, Cllr Mark McLuckie who explained he used to work for the company, said that while the firm was offering a “golden hello” to recruit drivers, investment in vehicles is needed.

He added: "It might be worth suggesting to them, although First Scotland East operate as a separate operating company within First Group as a whole and within First UK Bus, there's a lot of profit there that should be driven back into the standard of vehicle and I think the standard of vehicle is the driver behind their poor staff numbers as well."

But he highlighted the fact that a private bus company will not operate a service if it makes little to no money.

On that issue, Cllr Bryan Quinn said: “It should be a public service. It doesn't serve people at all when you can't get to your work; when you can't get to appointments; or when you can't get to visit your family you are caring for.

"It's not acceptable and this just to me highlights you can't trust private companies with a for-profit motive to run essential public services and, indeed, in my opinion, they shouldn't run public services.”

Duncan Cameron, managing director for First Bus Scotland, said: “Bus operators across the UK are continuing to face wide-ranging challenges in the current economic climate, not least the significant industry-wide driver shortage that is affecting service provision.

“We understand the frustrations felt by our customers and would wish to reiterate serving our communities is at the heart of our decision making. First Bus is committed to operating services on a reliable basis and putting the customer at the heart of everything we do.

“In recognition of the challenges we are facing currently, an action plan has been instigated that has allowed us to redeploy a number of drivers. We hope customers should experience an improvement in service from this week.”