On Friday I along with many others celebrated the life of former Council Leader Betty Higgin’s and honoured her by naming one of NCT’s buses after her.
Betty Higgins is one of Nottingham’s best and her impressive record reflects that. She was first elected as a Labour councillor to what was then Manvers Ward in 1971 and gave over 30 years of service until 2003 when she stood down. Betty Higgins became the first and only female Leader of Nottingham City Council in 1983 and served until 1987 and then again between 1988 and 1991. In 2004 she was made an Honorary Aldeman and contributed greatly to the Civics Office. Betty was also awarded a Nottingham Award in 2015 for her lifelong contribution to the city.
I am reassured to know that Betty started her life as a teacher – something I hope is a precursor to success as Leader of Nottingham City Council! It certainly equipped her with a disciplinary tendency that served her well as Leader in the 1980s with just a majority of one.
It was not an easy time to be leader as the country as a whole and Nottingham in particular faced recession, rising unemployment, deindustrialisation and reduced public spending. Betty was strong, innovative and forward thinking though, taking decisions that were not easy but decisions we certainly reap the benefit today.
During her time as Leader Betty saw through the completion of the Royal Concert Hall – recognising the importance of culture to the city. Today the Royal Concert Hall attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year with a programme of world class shows.
Betty also set in motion the constriction of the first line of the tram, something that was completed 15 years after she stepped down as leader. Since then we have extended the tram to Beeston and Clifton and it now services 17 million journeys a year.
Betty’s crowning achievement though is arguably Nottingham City Transport. At a time when the rest of the country was selling municipal companies Betty had the strength and determination to keep NCT publicly owned. It is a legacy which has had a lasting impact and is one of the reasons we have the best buses in the country.
Betty would be immensely proud of wat Nottingham City Transport has achieved:
- UK Bus Operator the Year four times (the only operator who has been!) – 2004, 2012, 2014 and 2016.
- Passenger Satisfaction on our buses is amongst the highest in the country – 91% in 2018.
- NCT is the 5th biggest private employer in Greater Nottingham – the top 4 are all multi-national organisations.
- 50 million passenger trips per year (2017/18).
- The largest fleet of bio-gas double deck buses in the world with 120 in total, with USB ports, free wifi and comfier seats.
Next year Nottingham will become the one of the few places outside of London to have contactless payments on buses too thanks to the work of Nottingham City Transport. She would no doubt have approved of this continued approach by the company to be future focused and ahead of the curve.
There couldn’t be many more fitting tributes to Betty then naming one of the Yellow 68/9 buses bio-gas buses after her – not least because the route goes to Bulwell where she lived in her later day.
Thank you again for Nottingham City Transport for offering this tribute and thank you to everyone who attended to help celebrate Betty.