The Corporate Subversion of Local Government Pt1

I suppose that my suspicions about the integrity of Lancashire County Council Environment Directorate policy were first raised in 1989 when LCC decided to replace its long standing fleet of Ford D-Series 13 ton gross short wheelbase drop side tippers with 3.5 ton gross twin wheel Transit van based tippers.  The old Ford’s did need replacing and they already had a few later model Cargo SWB 13 ton tippers already and the logical thing to do would have been to replace like for like, said SWB tippers would carry an 8 ton load and were really useful tools for the work the council did.  Jobs like collecting 8 tons of tarmac for hand lay jobs just enough for a gang to lay in a morning or afternoon as a repair to the side of a minor road before the whole road was resurfaced with cheap yet effective tar spray and blue metamorphic grit-stone chippings, which the 8 ton tipper collected from the strategic chipping dumps around the area at that time.  The same principle applied to footpaths, load of 20mm bit base course in the morning, back to the local quarry for 6mm dense bit for the surface in the afternoon, they also had a few Massey Ferguson 135 tractors pulling tipping trailers for short trip small jobs with a bucket on the front to load the chippings from the dumps onto the 8 tonners in the summer season and any muck shifting jobs throughout the year.
 
I expect that most people were glad to see the back of the tractors which were a menace travelling to their jobs in a morning and then back at late afternoon, and all the LCC drivers could see the Transit policy was lunacy when they had to tip off to be legal after loading the minimum 1.5 ton batch out of No1 and 3  under the tar plant at Horrocksford.  Perhaps nobody complained too much because they were still getting HGV driving rates of pay although they probably lost the unofficial perk of getting a few quid for any tar left over from someone who could make use of it instead of taking it to the tip.   The result was that all the old county 8 ton tipper work was given to the quarry and LCC had to pay the minimum haulage rate for 10 tons for most jobs which eventually led to private contractors getting most of the council work because they used at least 7.5 ton no HGV tippers which could carry 4 tons.   Another possible alleged unintended consequence was that it gave Ford the excuse they needed to close its Langley truck plant and sell the land close to Heathrow as part of its collaboration with IVECO and take all the Cargo tools to the US and build it there and sell it successfully for many years after. 
 
Something similar happened to LDV as I was informed when I went on a locally organised coach trip to the Motor Show around 1999 and got talking to the old guy on the LDV stand then still selling the old 1970s Leyland design Sherpa van.   They had made some minor improvements like using plastic for the bonnet instead of potentially rotting steel but it was clear that its main Achilles heel was it 1900 Peugeot diesel engine which had replaced the original BMC engine and made it well underpowered by then standards, the heavier twin wheel derivative had a Ford engine as used in its main competitor the Transit.  They had considered using a turbo version of the 1900 engine but their main problem was that several big Labour controlled local authorities had excluded them from tendering for fleet contracts because the Sherpa didn’t have all the very latest safety bullshit like air bags etc.  LDV were basically forced to invest in a completely new design which probably lost them the price competitiveness they once had and perhaps the significant small trader market they had didn’t like the new front wheel drive design anyway so as soon as the new model went into production they were basically trading insolvent.   They thought they were saved when a Russian oligarch stepped in and perhaps bought all their outstanding liabilities for £1 or something similar like in many cases, but the new design wasn’t selling and they closed down anyway.  Meanwhile the oligarch had taken all the old tools to build the Sherpa to Russia and with a few minor mostly cosmetic to make it look more modern alterations and a new state of the art small powerful Cummins engine to successfully sell it Russian markets.
 
Skip back in time to 1991 when I was working at Ribble Clitheroe depot which was under threat of closure in order for the site to be sold to build posh houses but perhaps survived after I started because of the simple things I did like checking the engine oil properly and topping up with the correct amount instead of the previous practice of putting a full gallon in whether it needed it or not.   It was the same with the cleaning and the guy in his fifties I worked with who showed me the ropes and gave me the stiff inch thick short brush as standard issue which was totally useless if you took any pride in your job however menial.   I soon started using one of the soft short handled brushes the part time day shift women alleged deep cleaners used and did a better job quicker and easier and I’m pretty certain I even swept buses theoretically already cleaned by him thinking they hadn’t been done yet.  It soon became obvious that the guy was angling for the depot to close in order to get his long service redundancy and he always did his level best to hinder the efficient operation of the depot as much as he could get away with under the protection of the union even though his son in law worked as a fitter in the garage.  The only decent guy there was the charge-hand fitter, another fitter ( the son in law ) they had was pretty gormless despite his paper qualifications and one night I saved the service next day when I electric welded a broken battery carrier on a National because he couldn’t weld.  There was another fitter as well who had been a gas fitter in the army and retrained who was totally incompetent and often made more work than he solved yet he still kept his job, probably because the official depot engineer was originally a maintenance fitter in a carpet factory at Chorley and had no idea about automotive engineering either.
 
As usual I digress but getting back to the government subversion angle around 1991 the then Tory government transport minister ( perhaps Ken Clarke ) allowed local councils to install traffic calming measures despite the fact that it broke all the original department of transport rules as based on experience.  However, it was Labour and Lib-Dem controlled local authorities who were the most enthusiastic to take up the new idea and none more so than Labour controlled Hyndburn as then led by a now long dead quasi-religious socialist old guy from Gt Harwood, likewise Blackburn and Burnley and there particularly in poor Asian dominated areas.   Very soon after Hyndburn Corporation Transport was in financial difficulties, and I was later informed that a brilliant coachbuilder in his 30s I knew well who worked at Ribble Blackburn depot had been offered the job as chief coachbuilder at Hyndburn and taken it only to quit two weeks later because he couldn’t cope with the workload.   Ribble had welcomed him back with open arms because he was so good at his job but they were already having problems with the long rear overhang on the National’s swiping keep left bollards even with their best drivers when people first stepped out into the road before bothering to look at junctions and they were forced to deviate from planed track.  Hyndburn Transport was particularly badly afflicted as all theri fleet was coach built and wore out quick style as the new humps etc made the body flex so much so all the rivets soon worked lose and they were soon in dire straights.  Despite being diametrically opposed to their theoretical socialist ideology the council were forced to sell out Hyndburn Transport for a pittance to Stagecoach complete with the big old original tram depot on a prime development site close to the town centre and especially the railway station.   Almost immediately Stagecoach closed down Hyndburn Transport and sold the depot which although in perfect condition and well suited to its original function was demolished and the land developed into a retail park, buses probably sold to Paul Sykes as scrap.
 
Blackburn Transport lasted considerably longer and they succumbed when the fleet needed replacement at the end of its natural life and perhaps difficulty getting spares even if they could have kept them longer, and eventually Stagecoach even got Burnley & Pendle although by then the Stagecoach group interests in Lancashire had been split into new various subsidiaries in a restructuring.   There was a big fuss in the local paper at Blackburn when one of the new private operators diverted one of the long standing services to avoid one particular key road with traffic calming after they could no longer cover the cost of the damage caused by the humps to the low floor alleged disabled access buses.   Apparently it left lots of older residents not that good at walking stranded and perhaps one subtle possible objective was to force them to move out from the home they owned outright into rented accommodation or even go into a private care home ?
 
Perhaps if it were not for the influx of Polish bus drivers services would have been disrupted by a driver shortage as drivers were being scapegoated for accidents with pedestrians in new town centre layouts caused by the fact that it was impossible for the long wheelbase long front and rear overhang buses to negotiate the road without significantly impinging on the pavement.   No problem for the Poles at they simply went home to avoid proceedings in what had by then become virtual Kangaroo courts as festered by media propaganda.
 
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