Campaign launched against East Sussex County Council around school taxi contracts
Taxi drivers in East Sussex have been left ‘devastated’ after school transport contracts were awarded to an Essex-based firm and now a campaign against the decision has been set up.
The recent retendering saw East Sussex County Council (ESCC) award most of its ‘one school’ contracts, where one provider supplies all of the vehicles and staff to a school, to an Essex company called 24×7 Limited.
Anger at the decision has resulted in a campaign being set up with the aim of getting ESCC to reconsider the contracts.
James Kiernan, a Unite member who represents Lewes Hackney Drivers said drivers only found out the news two weeks ago, when 24x7 Limited representatives came to hand out leaflets at taxi ranks in the area.
Mr Kiernan has had a contract with the same school for 18 months but no longer knows whether this will continue in September.
In the changes, seven out of nine of the council’s ‘one school’ contracts, including some of which that cater to children with learning difficulties, were moved to 24x7 Limited.
Councillor James MacCleary said, “The concerns are around the lack of transparency there’s been in the process.
“It’s been a bit of a shock the way taxi drivers and councillors have found out.
“It’s the impact not only on the drivers themselves, their livelihoods and their ability to continue operating in the area, but the impact on the children – many of whom are vulnerable.
“It’s very difficult to build up this trusting relationship with a driver who takes them to school or wherever they are going. These relationships are going to be lost.
“That’s quite a reckless risk that the county council are taking.”
Eastbourne foster mother of two Ali Smith said, “These children with severe learning difficulties need stability.
“These things are putting the families and children under a lot of pressure.
“It is really detrimental.”
An ESCC spokesperson said, “All of our contracts are regularly reviewed to ensure we continue to get the best value for money.
“While 24x7 Limited’s head office is based in Essex, their drivers and passenger assistants will be East Sussex-based and will include those wishing to transfer from current providers under transfer of undertakings arrangements.
“24x7 Limited has a very good training programme, which is above and beyond what we specify in our contact.
“We will continue to ensure that all eligible children are provided with safe and appropriate transport that meets their needs.”
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