O-Licence cut for Bearwood Coaches

After Upper Tribunal quashed the earlier revocation, the DTC cut Bearwood Coaches’ O-Licence to 25 vehicles

In cutting the 60-vehicle O-Licence held by Smethwick-based William Burnett, trading as Bearwood Coaches, to 25 vehicles, Deputy Traffic Commissioner (DTC) Nick Jones said that it would prevent Mr Burnett from operating vehicles with eight or fewer seats under the O-Licence.

He also held that Mr Burnett had lost his repute as a Transport Manager (TM) and disqualified him from acting as such.

The O-Licence was originally revoked in October by Traffic Commissioner (TC) Nick Denton on grounds of repute and finance. In addition, he disqualified Mr Burnett from acting as a TM indefinitely.

In doing so, he said that Mr Burnett’s mind appeared entirely closed to the requirement to keep proper records and manage a business to modern compliance standards. He continued to reject well-meant advice from a variety of sources [routeone/Court Report/9 October 2019] [routeone/Court Report/6 November 2019].

At a previous Public Inquiry (PI) in 2018 the O-Licence was curtailed to 40 vehicles because of maintenance issues. The O-Licence was subsequently restored to 60 vehicles after a satisfactory audit. However, assurances given at that PI had not been adhered to.

The Upper Tribunal quashed the revocation and disqualification orders after Mr Burnett appealed against those decisions, directing that the matter be considered by a different TC [routeone/Court Report/19 February 2020].

In its decision the Tribunal said that it could very well understand the TC’s frustration.

Not only was the operator’s approach to the role of record-keeping as an integral part of maintenance unconventional and unsatisfactory, but also, and significantly, previous assurances had not been honoured.

Unfortunately, from the beginning of the hearing things seemed to get off on the wrong foot and through to the decision an undue and largely exclusive emphasis remained on that aspect, causing errors of fact and law to be made.

Many of the errors were significant and affected the conclusion both on financial standing and on repute. It accordingly set the TC’s decision aside.

At the outset the DTC said that financial standing was met as of the date of the PI.

For Mr Burnett, Jarrad Dunbar said that the impact of the 2019 PI decision and the refusal to stay the decision pending the appeal had resulted in the loss of all his school contracts.

Mr Burnett had invested time and money in trying to address the problems raised. He had not simply ignored advice. If the business continued a transport consultant would be engaged to undertake annual audits.

Mr Burnett’s intention was to retire as TM and an application had been made for Imran Khan to become TM.

After the DTC said that he was concerned that the records were still not being kept in vehicle specific files, Mr Dunbar said that they were in six folders with dividers between each vehicle.

The DTC said that if Mr Khan became TM, he would expect him to adopt best practice such as separate vehicle files.

Indicating that he had no problem with Mr Khan being TM, Mr Burnett said: “I’m not a forceful guy. I’m not aggressive.”

In reply to the DTC, Mr Burnett said that the vehicles were all minibuses and the eight-seaters were operated under the PSV O-Licence. He had tried to get taxi plates for the eight-seaters, but Birmingham City Council had said he did not need to.

The DTC said that the vehicle list showed 23 large vehicles and 20 small vehicles. It was clear that the smaller vehicles should be run under a private hire licence.

He pointed out that when the O-Licence was renewed in 2018, an undertaking was attached that eight-seaters would not be operated without the TC’s permission.

Vehicle Examiner Austin Jones said that he had visited Bearwood on many occasions over the last 10 years. Mr Burnett was always very co-operative and there was little problem with the roadworthiness of the vehicles.

After expressing concern about Mr Khan’s level of payment, the DTC granted a period of grace for a new TM to be appointed, saying that the person concerned would need contracted employment with a minimum wage of £25,000 a year.