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Moseley PCV - 2019
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September 05 2018
By Westminster Watcher

Our man based in Westminster is a seasoned political watcher follows the implications on the coach, bus and minibus industry of debates and decisions being made by politicians both in London, as well as the devolved regions. The nature of his role and contacts means he has to remain anonymous, as he keeps his finger on the political pulse...

The end of an era

When I returned from my summer break the last thing I was expecting to hear was that Simon Posner has left the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), having been its Chief Executive for the best part of ten years and, before that, its Deputy Director of Communications under the late David Watson. 

Simon Posner at CPT’s Annual Dinner in February 

Although his departure felt sudden and unexpected, in practice I suspect this was no real surprise to either Simon or senior people in the industry. 

A new approach

I recall that in his inaugural speech as the new President back at the CPT Annual Dinner on 1 February, Martin Dean said that a new style of lobbying was required – or words to that effect – and I see from the CPT press release announcing his departure, Simon said that he had decided to move on “after a great deal of thought”. So perhaps his departure is not too much of surprise after all. 

I know that some members of the CPT have for some time now wanted to see a more vocal, desk-thumping style in its dealings with Government, a style that Simon was never going to adopt – it simply isn’t in his DNA, and he didn’t believe it would pay dividends for the members anyway. 

So, if Martin’s comment about needing a new style of lobbying suggests that the CPT wants to adopt this more vocal approach, I’m not that surprised Simon has left.  

I don’t actually think there’s a right and a wrong “style” of lobbying.  As with most things, it’s a balance and it all depends on the circumstances. 

Changes needed

I suspect some in the industry think that a more vocal, higher profile CPT would have avoided the then Chancellor of the Exchequer’s proposals for bus franchising in Greater Manchester. The flaw with that is that even Department for Transport officials were unaware of the plans for franchising being negotiated by the Chancellor with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority until literally just a few days before they emerged. 

Perhaps the Chancellor just didn’t realise how controversial his proposals would be. Maybe.  But it’s said the Combined Authority made franchising a condition of the entire devolution agreement, and the Chancellor was evangelical in his commitment to devolution.  

But there’s no point musing on past events. Whoever replaces Simon will presumably be expected to adopt this more vocal and high-profile approach. Certainly, with a number of local authorities contemplating franchising, the case for deregulation still needs to be made.

But if CPT members want a more vocal chief executive, they too will need to be far more engaged with their local authorities, local MPs and other stakeholders than I believe they have been – something I have said more than once in the past. 

I wish Simon well in his next endeavour.

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