A senior council chief has hit back at claims public bodies have not done enough to keep threatened bus and coach firm Plaxtons open.

The Scarborough based firm employs 750 workers 100 from York but has been threatened with closure since May 4.

Since then, management have been negotiating with unions to try and find a way to save the plant.

It was thought a package to turn it into a "centre of excellence" for coach building had been put together, but a senior Plaxtons source yesterday said that talks were in danger of breaking down.

And in doing so, he pointed the figure at public bodies such as North Yorkshire County Council and Yorkshire Forward.

He said they had shown "a lack of interest" in keeping the talks alive.

This was angrily denied by Leader of North Yorkshire County Council David Ashton.

He said: "I don't see what more we could have done and am very surprised to hear allegations of this sort being made.

"The management hit us with the decision without carrying out any sort of consultation whatsoever, and in all the negotiations that are taking place now we are running hard to catch up.

"They have had plenty of time to consider things. We have not."

Coun Ashton said the county council had worked hard with Yorkshire Forward and Scarborough Borough Council to look for a solution.

But he added if Plaxtons bosses decided to close there was not a lot that could be done.

"That is management's decision. However, I refute completely allegations that we have been unhelpful.

"We have bent over backwards to see what we could do to help. But it is not our job to run the factory," he said.

A spokesman for Scarborough Borough Council said they have worked with Yorkshire Forward to find cash to help anyone made redundant from Plaxtons retrain or find new jobs.

And he said borough council representatives had worked on an Economic Prospects Task Force, set up in the town to tackle the consequences of the plant closing.

Meanwhile, West Yorkshire coachbuilders UVG have started advertising for extra staff.

Based near Huddersfield, York-based Plaxtons workers taking jobs there would not face much longer on their daily trip to work.

UVG spokesman Steve Collins admitted the situation at Plaxtons had had a bearing on the company's decision to place the advert.

He said: "It is part coincidence, but we know what could happen there so we thought why not place an advert somewhere there may be skilled workers looking for a job.

"We would welcome applications from former Plaxtons workers who live in York or anywhere else."

Updated: 08:49 Thursday, May 31, 2001