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August 09 2017
By Jessamy Chapman

Features Editor at routeONE magazine, Jessamy is also Editor of Group Tourism & Travel magazine


Darlington rapped over use of S19 holders

Council slammed by BUSK is now re-tendering school routes for commercial operators

S19 holder was ‘an illegal school bus operation’, says BUSK

School transport safety campaigner BUSK has revealed the part it has played in the DfT’s decision to enforce a ban on Section 19/22 permit holders bidding on competitively-tendered routes.

The organisation warned Darlington Borough Council in January this year about its use of Darlington & District Youth Community Association (DDYCA), a charity using Section 19 permits, for home-to-school contracts. BUSK Director Pat Harris contacted the council after receiving complaints from local operators.

Mrs Harris told the council that it was using public money to fund an illegal school bus operation, and putting children using the service at risk.

She cited Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney’s statement at a Public Inquiry last year that there is a misconception that “non-commercial” means not making a profit, when in fact it means not being paid money.

Mrs Harris made a Freedom of Information request to Darlington Council which showed that DDYCA has received well over £200,000 from the council in the last two years.

When the council did not stop using DDYCA to provide school services, Mrs Harris wrote to TC Rooney. The Office of the TC said it would investigate.

Since the DfT released its letter to issuers of S19/22 permits last week, Darlington Council has put up all of its school services for re-tender on its website.

Mrs Harris says: “This is a very serious matter and one that is also likely to have had a huge effect within the local economy, because local commercial operators have potentially lost a lot of business.

“Obviously, from a business perspective, a charity operating in accordance with a Section 19 permit doesn’t have many of the expenses and overheads required of an O-Licensed operator, so to then operate commercially puts them at a significant advantage.

“Section 19 permits do not allow this and they were never intended to be used in this way.”

Darlington Borough Council has issued a statement saying: “We have a legal duty to provide transport to and from school for children and young people with additional needs. We want to reassure parents/carers and children who use this service that arrangements will be in place to ensure this important duty is fulfilled when the new academic year starts in September.

“We will contact families towards the end of the summer holidays, to explain and confirm what these arrangements will be.”



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