ICSM Business News: social enterprise bus firm HCT posts a £10.3 million pound loss and starts shutting services as the trade speculates on its future

ICSM Business News: social enterprise bus firm HCT posts a £10.3 million pound loss and starts shutting services as the trade speculates on its future

By Harry Mottram: Things don’t look good for the HCT Group, the country’s leading social enterprise bus operator, with an ominous post on its website regarding its finances the closing of bus services in Bristol and the Borough of Islington this week.

The trade publication Bus and Train User reported: “The Group’s financial accounts for year ended September 2021 are overdue by 19 days according to the Charity Commission website while the previous set of accounts – for an eighteen-month period to September 2020 – show a substantial loss of £10,300,000 (on turnover of £123,706,829).”

Information on the Commission’s website reads: “This report covers a period of major organisational change as well as the impact of COVID 19. The planned restructuring of the business was always going to make 2019/20 a difficult period for the Group. The closure and de-merger of operations in Manchester and Derby, and the need to drive operational improvement across the group, have inevitably resulted in significant restructuring costs. These have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID 19 and we have taken the decision to extend our financial year 2019/20 to 18 months, allowing us to place the majority of the impact of the restructuring and the pandemic into one accounting period.”

This all comes on top of a number of problems with the Covid Crisis hitting passenger numbers and revenue, the current hike in interest rates and rise in inflation amongst the group’s ills. And there have been acquisitions as the HCT Group went on a spending spree to expand its services across the UK. In 2020 £2 million was pumped into Manchester Community Transport before insolvency loomed and there was the purchase of Powells Bus in 2018 which collapsed four years later.

Things may look gloomy, but HCT Group are confident they can continue delivering a broad range of transport and training services and a glance at their website reveals they are recruiting drivers in London and Bristol. The group began in 1982 as a volunteer run minibus service for community groups in Hackney after the council awarded it a grant. It has expanded mainly from grants a loans from city councils until in has a turnover on £23.3 million in 2009.

Sadly, the Hackney service has also closed as the debts have mounted up and cash flow has been squeezed raising doubts for the group’s future by Bus and Train User. A piece on their website said it doesn’t take an accountant to spot the problems in the group’s finances and poses the question: “What next for HCT Group?”


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