Adrian Weissenbruch (SEND and Passenger Assistant Transport Manager) has prepared a brief update on the current fulfilment of Passenger Transport Unit Contracts.
Adrian Weissenbruch (SEND and Passenger Assistant Transport Manager) referred to the update on the current fulfilment of Passenger Transport Unit Contracts and highlighted the following:
· There were now currently 22 students without transport to education settings due lack of drivers/licenced vehicles;
· Officers were continuing to receive no bids for some contracts put out to tender and they had been notified that one operator would be handing back 5 contracts between now and Easter due to drivers leaving;
· Growth in demand for transport continues and Officers were expecting 201 students to require transport by September 2023;
· Whilst the current advertising campaign had shown lots of interest with over 25 enquiries being received in the Passenger Transport Team, they would need to check if those had converted into applications from the Taxi Licensing Team;
· The team were introducing a new Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) to enable providers to bid on Wiltshire Council contracts and they were currently doing a big push to invite suppliers to bid on contracts this way;
The Chairman asked if they were looking at trends, particularly considering the five contracts known to be being returned? Adrian Weissenbruch reported that the 5 contracts being returned where due to driver’s retiring and those operators not being able to recruit new drivers to replace them. Officers would continue to look at trends but reported that they would need to issue a specific survey for particularly enquiries and whilst they may be successful in recruiting new drivers, drivers are continuing to leave so that the actual numbers don’t go up. In the survey they would look at what might be appealing in the industry to attract them in and then look at changing their strategies to accommodate that.
The Chairman asked if there would be any follow up to the queries received that did not progress into an application as he felt it would be useful to find out what was the barrier to them not applying and what we could do about that in the future.
Jason Salter (Head of Service – Passenger Transport) reported that he had produced a questionnaire for drivers/operators and would talk to Adrian Hampton and his team around this when it had received the appropriate Communications and Cabinet sign off.
A Committee member asked what would be the next plan if you they were not able to get more drivers to take on the Wiltshire contracts? Jason Salter reported that they would need to consider a blend of different things. Some of the contract services could come in house where the Council provides drivers for contract work, but they would still need to find the drivers themselves for those roles but it may be that the Council’s terms and conditions may be more attractive than external companies. They would also look at ways to encourage parents to provide more transport themselves. It was often more cost effective for parents to provide transport with the Council paying parents to provide this. Officers would be looking at policies in order to find appropriate solutions to resolve this issue.
A Committee member asked if those parents who are entitled to transport but do it themselves are recompensed for this – Jason Salter confirmed that they were. It was suggested that this could be made more attractive and a higher percentage paid for this. Jason Salter reported that they try and base it on a rough milage rate and they would know what it would cost the Council to get them to school and then they would look at negotiating a price for the parents to do this. That was something they did well on compared to other local authorities but for some parents of course they much preferred to not transport their children to school as that was one less thing for them to do particularly when there were SEND needs.
The Vice Chair asked if all children with SEND are entitled to free education transport? Jason Salter confirmed that this was not the case – it was a distance issue depending on if they were not able to attend their nearest school for reasons of suitability. There were 33% of children with an Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP’s) and not all of those were entitled to transport but a chunk of those did.
A Committee member asked how he would explain to his constituents why their Council Tax is high and why the Council is responsible for getting some children to school at an annual cost of £7k, with some children not having a SEND needs. Was this due to legislation or a choice that the Council made? Adrian Weissenbruch reported that this was a statutory requirement and that it was a priority of the SEND Team to support children where possible in the local schools/community and where this is not available to provide transport to a suitable location for their education.