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Cabinet member defends acceptance of sponsorship money from bus company

Swansea service busses (source: Swansea Council)

A SWANSEA cabinet member has defended the council’s acceptance of sponsorship money from bus operator First Cymru after councillors criticised it during a debate four months ago.

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies told a meeting of full council that he thought it was good that a transport company which “took millions (of pounds) of money out of the city” had put something back in by sponsoring a food, drink and culture event in Swansea, called Croeso.

Cllr Francis-Davies, Labour cabinet member for investment, regeneration, events and tourism, said: “I would also love to actually see them (First Cymru) lower fares for people, and get longer services.”

It had been put to him by Conservative councillor Francesca O’Brien that some residents were unhappy the council had partnered with First Cymru for the festival given remarks made about the operator during a council motion about public transport last November.

Cllr O’Brien said she found the sponsorship arrangement “interesting”, and claimed that some comments that had been made during last November’s debate were “quite defamatory”. Cllr Francis-Davies said he hadn’t made defamatory comments – and he congratulated the council’s commercial and events teams for securing the sponsorship.

He said he would like more companies and utilities which made profits from people in Swansea to reinvest in council-organised events, although he’d rather not have to go “cap in hand”. He said: “We will take the money, because they are making enough money out of the people of this country for services that we owned,” he said.

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Last November’s unanimously-backed motion was proposed by Cllr Chris Holley, the Liberal Democrat leader of the opposition, and seconded by council leader Rob Stewart. It regretted the latest round of cuts by private bus operators, asked the Welsh Government to work closely with councils to set up publicly-run bus companies, and called on the UK Government to provide Wales with “consequential” funding from the HS2 rail project. Many councillors bemoaned the state of public transport and criticised deregulation in the 1980s that had led to the rise of private providers, although Cllr O’Brien said the Labour Party had had an opportunity to address the situation when it was in power in Westminster.

Speaking at the latest meeting of full council, Labour councillor Lesley Walton said she felt it would have been “foolhardy” to refuse First Cymru’s sponsorship money for Croeso although she would have preferred it to be invested in better bus services.

First Cymru reduced bus services in South West Wales at the end of October last year, saying passenger numbers had dropped and that Welsh Government financial support was being reduced.

Some bus routes are operated on a commercial basis by private companies while others require taxpayer subsidy. Swansea Council is subsidising 34 bus routes in Swansea for the next five years. The Welsh Government has proposed legislation which would enable councils to set up and run their own bus services.

Conservative councillor Angela O’Connor said she found it “quite ironic” that First Cymru had sponsored an event which meant “welcome” in English when, in her view, it didn’t welcome people into Swansea because it had cut services.

These are the 34 bus services in Swansea which the council is subsidising for the next five years:

  • 3A, city centre to Mumbles, weekday evenings and Sunday evenings
  • 4A, city centre to Morriston Hospital, Sunday evenings
  • 5, city centre to Cwmdonkin, weekday daytime
  • 6, city centre to Port Tennant, weekday evenings, Sunday daytime and evening
  • 7, city Centre to Marina and Maritime Quarter, weekday daytime
  • 12, city centre to Townhill, Sunday evenings
  • 14, city centre to Pennard, weekday daytime, weekday evenings and Sunday daytime
  • 15, city centre to Gowerton, Monday to Friday daytime
  • 16, Swansea to Pontarddulais, weekday daytime and evenings
  • 16, Swansea to Penclawdd, Sunday daytime
  • 20, city centre to Derlwyn, weekday evenings and Sunday evenings
  • 24, city centre to Morriston Hospital, weekday daytime
  • 25, city centre to Blaenymaes, Sunday evenings
  • 28, city centre to Penplas, weekday evenings
  • 30, city centre to Trallwn, Monday to Friday daytime
  • 31, city centre to Morriston, weekday daytime, weekday evenings, Sunday daytime and evening
  • 33, city centre to Trallwn, weekday daytime
  • 34, city centre to Swansea Enterprise Park, Monday to Friday morning peak
  • 35, city centre to Llangyfelach, weekday daytime
  • 36, city centre to Morriston, Sunday daytime and evening
  • 41 and 42, Clase to Swansea University Singleton Campus, weekday early mornings
  • 43, city centre to Morriston Hospital, weekday daytime
  • 45, city centre to Morriston Hospital, weekday daytime
  • 46, Morriston to Gorseinon area, weekday daytime
  • 49, city centre to North Hill, weekday daytime
  • 51, city centre to Fabian Way park and ride, weekday daytime
  • 52, city centre to Landore park and ride, weekday daytime
  • 54, city centre to Parc Llewellyn, weekday daytime
  • 111, Swansea to Llanelli, weekday evenings and Sunday evening
  • 115, North Gower to South Gower, weekday daytime
  • 116, Swansea to North Gower, weekday daytime
  • 117, Killay to South Gower, weekday daytime
  • 118, Swansea to South Gower, weekday daytime
  • 119, Swansea to South Gower, weekday daytime