SPT leadership must be cross-party

In light of the ongoing revelations and resignations by leading Labour figures of Strathclyde Public Transport, local SNP representatives from across the area have written to the Scottish Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson seeking his support for the top two positions to be wrested from the control of the Labour party.

The SNP representatives believe the current ructions are an opportunity for reform and improvement of the management of SPT which would see leadership of its board shared with the positions of Chair and Vice Chair held by members of different parties as happens within COSLA.

Commenting on the letter SNP Glasgow Councillor Graeme Hendry, who worked to expose some of the problems within SPT, said:

“It is important that we now see real reform of SPT and that starts at the top which Labour appears to believe is their right to fully control.

“It's time for real openness and accountability at the top of SPT with a chair and vice chairs from different parties and different authorities.

"That is a system that works in COSLA, and there is no reason why SPT cannot do the same.

"Labour's days of absolute control of institutions across Scotland are over but the situation at SPT is a reminder of how they haven't given up retaining that control.

“It is a Labour leadership which has presided over the current mess SPT is in.

“The SPT board does not meet until next week but Labour have already anointed a chairman and are no doubt currently picking their chosen deputy.  That is the same old style Labour politics that got SPT into this mess.

"It is time for real reform, a clear out of SPT and some democratic cross-party balance."

Also commenting on today's revelations in the Sunday Times that the police have been contacted in connection with the expenses claims Councillor Graeme Hendry said:

"It would be galling to find out taxpayers money has been used to allow anyone from SPT to live it up while at Manchester or on any other trip.

"If it does turn out that claims such as the lunch at San Carlo are not related to work, they must be repaid and questions need to be asked about why they were claimed in the first place."

ENDS

Notes:

1. Today's revelations can be read here.


2. The letter to the Transport Minister is as follows:

Dear Stewart

cc. John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth

You will no doubt be aware of recent reports of problems within Strathclyde Partnership for Transport.

Media coverage over the last week has concentrated on what appear to be unrealistic and inappropriate expenses claims, alongside high spending on overseas visits as well as a particularly controversial trip by SPT representatives to Manchester on the day of the UEFA cup final.

Over the last five days the Chair and one of the Vice Chair’s have resigned and the Chief Executive has also indicated he is seeking to leave on the grounds of ill health.

There is a clear need for a thorough and independent investigation of SPT’s management and processes in recent years.  Audit Scotland has been contacted and have indicated that they are in contact with SPT’s auditors.

In addition the Scottish Parliament’s Transport Committee has been asked to look into the standard and quality of services SPT is delivering to the people of Strathclyde and if it is meeting their needs.

Whilst SPT is the responsibility of the local authorities in the Strathclyde area I am writing to ask that should the co-operation of the Scottish Government be required at any point in the investigation that you will ensure that full support.

As part of efforts by local authorities in the Strathclyde area to ensure that the current situation is taken as an opportunity for thorough reform and dramatic improvement of management and services we also wish to see leadership of the SPT board shared between the political parties represented on the board.

In the past the Chair and two vice-chair posts have all been held by the same party.   I believe this should no longer be the case and that to ensure accountability and transparency at the top of SPT  if the board contains members from more than one party the positions of Chair and Vice Chair should be held by members of different parties as happens within COSLA.

Whilst this is a matter for the local authorities I would hope to have the support of the Scottish Government for such a proposal which would enhance the openness and accountability of one of Scotland’s major public sector organisations.

The current problems facing SPT provide a unique opportunity to transform this organisation.  I, along with Glasgow MSPs and representatives of councils in SPT would be keen to meet with you and discuss the future direction of SPT.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Derek MacKay (Renfrewshire)
Cllr James Dornan (Glasgow)
Cllr Graeme Hendry (Glasgow)

Sandra White MSP (on behalf of SNP Parliamentary group)

John Mason MP

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