Each and every household in the Isle of Man subsidised Bus Vannin an average of over £250 in the last (pandemic-disrupted) financial year according to a new analysis by the Manx TaxPayers’ Alliance using records revealed under the Freedom of Information Act. This money is paid by Manx taxpayers in addition to the money collected from ticketing.
Before the pandemic, in 2018-19, taxpayers subsidised Bus Vannin by £5,367,996, which, shared amongst the 35,763 households1 of the Isle of Man is just over £150/household. In 2019-20 that increased to £162/household, and in the pandemic-disrupted 2020-21 year, that soared to £263/household.
Repeated budget blowouts reveal poor financial control
Prior to the pandemic, in 2018-19, Isle of Man Government budget documents budgeted a subsidy of approximately £143/household, which blew out to an actual subsidy of just over £150/household, a blowout of almost 5%.
In 2019-20, budget documents budgeted a subsidy of approximately £147/household, which blew out to an actual subsidy of £162/household, a breach of over 10%.
Ahead of the pandemic-disrupted financial year of 2020-21, budget documents forecast a taxpayer-funded subsidy of £147/household, but this blew out to £263/household, almost 80% over budget.
“Even before the pandemic, Bus Vannin repeatedly blew out their budget. It’s about time that the leaders of Bus Vannin were held to account for their poor budgetary control,” said Michael Josem of the Manx TaxPayers’ Alliance.
“Different people might have different ideas about how best to spend taxpayer money on how to provide a safe, comfortable and effective bus service on the Isle of Man. Here, we are simply asking for Bus Vannin to be held to do what they promise with our money,” said Josem.
Payroll overspend every year
In each of the last three completed financial years, taxpayers suffered large payroll overspends compared to budgeted expectations from Bus Vannin. The payroll overspend in 2018-19 was £538,442, in 2019-20 the payroll overspend was £760,330, and in the pandemic-disrupted 2020-21 financial year, the payroll overspend was “only” £370,556. These overspends are the difference between Bus Vannin’s own budget and actual financial results in each year.
“A payroll overspend of several hundred thousand pounds in one year is unfortunate. A payroll overspend of several hundred thousand pounds in two consecutive years is concerning. A payroll overspend of several hundred thousand pounds in three consecutive years reveals that the leadership of the Department of Infrastructure is simply doing a poor job of delivering on their promises,” said Michael Josem of the Manx TaxPayers’ Alliance.
Bus Vannin’s payroll overspend alone is more than enough to pay to end holiday hunger
Last week, the Manx TaxPayers’ Alliance published a handy calculator to estimate the cost of ending ‘holiday hunger’ for school students receiving free school meals. This estimated the cost of such a program at approximately £381,602.
The payroll overspend by Bus Vannin alone is enough to fully fund vouchers to end holiday hunger by school students receiving free school meals. In 2018-19, the Bus Vannin payroll overspend (£538k) would have entirely paid for ending holiday hunger (£382k), plus leave £157k (41%) left over. In 2019-20, the Bus Vannin payroll overspend (£760k) would have been enough money to pay for almost double the cost of ending holiday hunger. In 2020-21, the Bus Vannin payroll overspend (£371k) would have paid for approximately 97% of the cost of ending holiday hunger.
In the financial documents obtained and published below by the Manx TaxPayers’ Alliance, additional grants of just over £2.4 million were included in Bus Vannin’s financial records for 2020-21 financial year.
On 26 July 2021, the Manx TaxPayers’ Alliance contacted Bus Vannin to better understand the details of this unbudgeted grant, but Bus Vannin has failed to respond substantively prior to publishing. This is despite an automated response from the Department of Infrastructure promising, “We try to be as responsive as possible with your enquiry and will get back to you shortly.”
Sources close to the Isle of Man Government indicate that this extra grant came from taxpayers in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the calculations of household subsidies above include this as a taxpayer funded source of funds.
We will update this article if Bus Vannin bothers to respond.