The secondment of some Devon bus drivers to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham has been described as a ‘slap in the face’ for residents.

County councillors have criticised the move by Stagecoach, at a time when the operator is cutting some services because of a shortage of drivers and a drop in passengers compared to pre-pandemic levels.

It has been claimed that at least 29 of the company’s Devon drivers will work in the Midlands during the Commonwealth Games, which runs from Thursday, July 28 until Monday, August 8. A full meeting of Devon County Council last week heard the total number could be ‘over 50’.

Stagecoach did not deny the figures when approached for comment. It admitted the secondments will affect services but added: “Extensive planning has taken place to ensure that this has the minimal impact on our regional bus services.”

Speaking at the full council meeting, Councillor Rob Hannaford (Labour, Exwick & St Thomas) took particular issue during a speech criticising the bus service in Devon.

“It’s great that [the Commonwealth Games] is being held in this country and I’m sure we wish that everybody that’s competing there good luck – wherever they’re coming from all over the Commonwealth. I’m sure it’s going to be a fabulous event,” he said.

“But we don’t have enough drivers. We don’t have enough buses. Our people aren’t getting around the county for work and jobs and to hospital appointments. And it’s certainly not acceptable that Stagecoach is going to siphon off this amount of drivers and buses.

“I think it’s a slap in the face for people in Devon and I think it shows almost that Stagecoach isn’t taking any of these issues seriously.”

Leader of the county council, John Hart (Conservative, Bickleigh & Wembury), added: “We are really concerned about the movement of so many bus drivers at a time when we are short of bus drivers in Devon in the first place.”

Members agreed that if the Government hands more power to Devon in future, the county could eventually manage local bus services.

In the meantime, from the autumn, an ‘enhanced partnership’ will be set up so that the council and local bus operators can improve services.