Council’s £3.7m deal collapses over uninsured buses

Pollard: forced to cancel school bus deal

Croydon Council tonight cancelled a £3.7 million contract with a transport firm less than a month after it had started operating a bus service for disabled children, because the company did not have properly licensed vehicles and lacked the required insurance.

London Hire Services had been awarded the lucrative contract following Croydon’s tendering process held in December.  It began operating the routes to and from St Giles School on Pampisford Road at the end of April.

LHS was only set up in September 2010. It had no experience in this kind of transport work. The company has claimed that their lack of the licences was due to administrative delays. Official records suggest that they applied for licences for the midi-bus vehicles in September, a couple of months before Croydon launched its tendering process.

Councillor Tim Pollard, the cabinet member for children, young people and learners, and deputy leader of the Tory group that is running Croydon, was forced to admit today that London Hire Services’ contract had been terminated.

In a council email sent at 5.30pm this evening and seen by Inside Croydon, Pollard wrote: “This morning an inspection of LHS vehicles was carried out by the Vehicle and Operators Service Agency (VOSA).

Disabled children at St Giles School have been ill-served by the transport affair

“VOSA is the Government regulatory agency responsible for enforcing compliance with road traffic legislation and the visit was carried out with support from the Council.

“VOSA subsequently confirmed to the Council that LHS was acting in breach of relevant legislation in respect of most of its allocated routes. On receiving this awaited advice from the regulatory body, the Council immediately suspended LHS’s contract. This follows the issuing of a default notice late last week.

“I thought it important to assure you that the Council’s priority today and going forward is the safe and secure transportation of the 60 children who rely on these services. We have therefore put in place special temporary arrangements to ensure that these routes are covered by alternative providers with the necessary capacity, expertise and local knowledge.

“These measures are needed to ensure the children, parents and our teachers do not face unnecessary disruption.

“We have been in regular communication with St Giles School over the last few days and we have thanked the school for their co-operation. We have also written this afternoon to all the parents of the children to bring them up to speed.

“The Council will be taking further legal advice to put in place the right long-term replacement arrangements for these routes. We will also be considering our legal position in respect of London Hire Services.”

No one from the Croydon Council press office was available for comment. Not much they could add to that, though, is there really? Except maybe in trying to answer one or two pointed questions about Croydon Council’s competence in handling the outsourcing of services.

Last week, Inside Croydon was the first to report locally on the lack of licences and insurance at LHS. The schools transport contract had only been put out to tender last year following serious allegations over the way the award of the work had been handled previously

That schools transport contract, worth £6.5 million a year, was supervised by Croydon’s £150,000-a-year deputy chief executive responsible for procurement, Nathan “Efficiency is in our DNA” Elvery.

Will Pollard be bringing Elvery “up to speed” about how to run a transport tendering process?

Croydon Council: Proud to Serve legal notices on small companies after it fails to check their licences.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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