Amid bus cuts, Central Beds Council rebuts former employee's criticism
PUBLISHED: 11:28 31 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:28 31 May 2017
Following the slashing of Sunday and evening bus services around Biggleswade due to Central Beds Council subsidy cuts, the council has rebutted criticism from a former employee over its internal spending.
The former insider, speaking to the Comet on condition of anonymity, claimed that two new self-contained ‘pod’ meeting rooms at the council’s Priory House headquarters in Chicksands had cost £150,000 each – a figure disputed by the council, which says the cost was £67,210 for both pods.
Central Beds Council cut annual grants totalling about £16,700 to help fund bus routes 71, 72, 73, 81, prompting operator Stagecoach to withdraw commercially unviable Sunday, bank holiday and weekday evening services.
The ex-employee said: “These pods can hold only eight or nine people maximum each, and all because they said they didn’t have enough meeting rooms.
“They have four large meeting rooms, and each of the six office wings has at least one or two smaller rooms but hold at least 12 people.
“They also issued dozens of staff with iPads with the covers that have keyboards, despite having laptops.
“They have wasted all this money which should have been spent on the public, and now without the buses the elderly, the disabled, and those not able to drive are trapped in our homes.”
Central Beds Council said in response that it was working to reduce costs by vacating rented or leased office space, and had for example saved £1 million a year by vacating Technology House in Bedford.
A spokeswoman added: “In order to enable us to reduce office space, our staff are working in a more modern and flexible way – iPads are available to staff to enable them to work wherever they are.
“This means that they don’t need to be in the office to work, and can join meetings virtually rather than travel.
“Because we are reducing the number of buildings our staff work from, we’ve lost meeting rooms too.
“The two self-contained ‘pod’ meeting rooms were the most cost-effective way of providing more confidential meeting rooms without extending the Priory House building or reducing working space.”