MARCH: Taxi driver's speeding conviction prompts council investigation into school contracts abuse
EXCLUSIVE By MAGGIE GIBSON AN immediate investigation was launched last night into the possible abuse of rules by Fenland taxi companies with school contracts. Fenland District Council began checks after being contacted by the Cambs Times following
By MAGGIE GIBSON
AN immediate investigation was launched last night into the possible abuse of rules by Fenland taxi companies with school contracts.
Fenland District Council began checks after being contacted by the Cambs Times following the prosecution of a taxi driver for speeding at 76mph along the Sixteen Foot Bank at Christchurch while carrying a school boy.
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It soon became apparent that there could be significant abuse of the rules. Parents are now being urged to check that both vehicles and drivers are carrying a licence before allowing their children to be taken to school.
Councillor Geoffrey Harper, leader of Fenland Council, said: "We are very concerned about the potential scale of abuse of the licensing system that this case has brought to light.
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"Over and above our existing checks we are with immediate effect instigating a root and branch investigation of the issues raised and an audit of all licensed vehicles and drivers being used for school transport will be undertaken as a priority."
Driver Jamie Clements of Angel Travel was convicted of speeding on December 10, when the speed limit was 60mph. Clements, 31, of The Croft, Christchurch, was fined £100 and four points were endorsed on his licence.
The following day licensing officer Kim Winterton visited the company's most recent address in The Avenue, March, to find it empty and up for sale.
Cllr Harper said: "We are very concerned that there appears to be no means of making direct contact with anyone in charge of Angel Travel. This is a breach of licensing conditions and we will be pursuing an investigation of this and will take the appropriate action."
After visiting Angel Travel Ms Winterton carried out a spot check at Cavalry Primary School and discovered an unlicensed driver from another contract company in an unlicensed vehicle about to pick up two children. He was sent home and the parents were called to pick the children up.
The council is concerned that Clements may also be operating as a private hire driver with Angel Travel when his licence to carry passengers expired in January and no application for renewal has been received.
Cllr Harper added: "To further compound our concerns Angel Travel has, despite requests, failed to return three recently expired vehicle licence plates and we have concerns that these licence plates may still be in use. Currently, Angel Travel has just three vehicles registered and licensed with the district council.
"We are aware that Angel Travel has a number of Cambridgeshire County Council contracts to deliver children to and from schools in Fenland and we are currently working with officers there to investigate how Angel Travel can fulfil these with just three registered vehicles
"Initial discussions with the county council's school transport team have already revealed that nine contract vehicles are registered with the county council, which means that at least six of them are not licensed with us and therefore their insurance is invalid."
The county council has established that Clements was not on it's runs, but had been hired privately when the offence took place.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council said: "In view of the seriousness of Fenland District Council's comments, we are launching an urgent and thorough investigation into this incident and the operations of Angel Travel."
Urgent talks were taking place yesterday (Thu) with representatives from the company.
The spokesman added: "We operate many transport routes a year, taking thousands of children to and from school. We have an extremely robust system for vetting drivers and if we find anything to give us cause for concern in any of our contracts, we will act swiftly and decisively.