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Hop, Skip & Jump bus service: Councillors call for an audit

SHORTFALL: The Hop, Skip & Jump bus service has been in place since Manly Council days, and raises a fraction of what it costs to run. Picture: Geoff Jones
SHORTFALL: The Hop, Skip & Jump bus service has been in place since Manly Council days, and raises a fraction of what it costs to run. Picture: Geoff Jones

SOME residents in Manly, Seaforth, Balgowlah and Clontarf are getting a free ride and it's time for an audit, some councillors are saying.

The council-run Hop, Skip & Jump bus service offers five routes around these suburbs all for the price of a gold coin donation, but councillors Kylie Ferguson and Alex McTaggart say people aren't paying.

Council records show the service's five buses will cost northern beaches ratepayers $1.4 million ($750,000 on capital costs and $732,704 during the 2021-22 budget for staff, vehicle running and replacement costs). However, just $7000 in revenue is raised by the service.

At council's June meeting Crs Ferguson, McTaggart, White and Philpott called for a staff report on making the service revenue-neutral by December 1, but it was voted down by Manly ward's councillor Sarah Grattan and deputy mayor Candy Bingham; along with mayor Michael Regan and councillors Sue Heins, Vincent De Luca and Natalie Warren.

"It's got out of control and it's costing a lot of money and nobody is giving donations anymore," Cr Ferguson said.

"I don't want to see people not being able to get around, but it's not cost-effective. I'm not saying let's get rid of it, but how can we roll it out across the northern beaches."

Cr McTaggart said "Manly are bludging" and council should not be in the business of running a bus service in competition with State Transit.

"I asked for the service to be made revenue-neutral or stopped," he said. "There's a rort going on.

"If they [passengers] paid for it or they made it revenue-neutral then I don't have a problem with it, but I don't believe residents are prepared to pay their way.

"My prediction is that Hop, Skip & Jump will be dead by July 1, 2022."

Further north, Keoride, which is not run by council, offers an on-demand bus service in areas around Mona Vale and further north and the cost is $4 a trip to take passengers to the nearest B-Line stop and home again.

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