Today is 27 March 2009, and although the weather looks nowhere like summery, the summer timetable comes into force for the ferries as well as for the buses. And it's the buses I'm going to mention. Again.
Earlier this year, all bus routes in the Western Isles were put out to tender. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's own bus company (Bus na Comhairle) retained the route to Tolsta and Back, quite a busy route - to assess best value, to quote Hebrides News. The route to Point has had to be retendered, and I do see Point buses going round so someone is putting in an effort not to inconvenience passengers. If anyone is trying to get round Stornoway, they face a puzzle. The old Town Circular has been abolished, as I reported a few weeks ago, and has now been incorporated into out-of-town routes like the ones to Point and Ranish. Try to work it out, good luck. The new timetables are out of print (already), so we're fiddling about with photocopies at the moment. If it is the case that some bus services were reduced because of dropping passenger numbers, this mess will only exacerbate the situation.
Talking of tendering exercises, it puts me in mind of a news item from earlier this week. An electrical contractor was declared bankrupt, resulting in the loss of 10 jobs in Stornoway. He went under because he lost out on a tender for a streetlighting contract back in 1996. The contract was awarded to the Comhairle's in-house Direct Services Organisation (DSO) because they had a lower price. That was made possible by not budgeting for staff and plant. The electrician took the Council to court, but was only awarded a quarter of the sum he had sued for and when appealing the sum found himself confronted with a counter-appeal by the Comhairle. The Inland Revenue meanwhile filed for bankruptcy. The lawsuit is continuing, provided the trustees for the contractor wish to persevere.
I have to say that there has been a lot of talk from the Comhairle in the last few years of boosting the economy and attracting employment to the islands. Bearing the above two stories in mind, that is beginning to sound awfully hollow.