Dear Councillor Merry,
I have read your rebuttal of my concerns about Salford Council's actions in relation to the recent awarding of contracts in the "Salford Home to School Transport Fury" which I highlighted recently on Salfordonline.
I am certain everyone in Salford wants to be 100 % sure that all our "vulnerable" children are safely transported to school and back with no possibilities of risks to them in their trust of our Council in delivering this service.
You have denied that Salford Council has put our children at risk because you say that all drivers are CRB checked and Salford Council must be informed of any changes to drivers before they take place.
You have said that all contracts awarded have been done to contractors who must adhere to strict licensing conditions. You have also said that all passengers will have available to them the required number of staff, presumably to ensure they are transported safely to school and back.
You say that Salford Council is aware of all drivers and you say they are all CRB checked.
I am aware as highlighted in the report by Salfordonline that Salford Council has gone through a new round of tendering contracts which have been submitted through "The Chest" system where anyone interested in acquiring a particular contract, information is provided and once accepted, bids are submitted and contracts are awarded accordingly.
Based on the information and knowledge I have on this subject, I have received no information which has led me to believe that our "vulnerable" children have not been transported safely previously and my concerns is that this good record is continued where our children are not put at risk in future.
I have received information, which if true, could seriously jeopardise your position, the position of the Council and most importantly the safety of our children. I would be grateful, as you did in your response on Salfordonline answer these questions in public so that all our citizens in Salford have access to information which we all know is in the puiblic interest as real families are affected by services our Council provides, if they are not provided in a manner where our children are not put at risk by incompetence, inefficiency, cuts or cronyism :-
1) Can you confirm whether the Council has awarded contracts to transport our "vulnerable" children to new contractors, whether this be individual taxi's or "providers" that will transport many children in the one vehicle perhaps by coach with special adaptations for wheelchair access as an example ? In confirming this, despite the Council's previous good track record of safety, some previous providers who submitted bids to continue to provide services for the Council have this time had their bids rejected ?
2) Previous contractors who have provided in the past a safe and secure service for the Council and for our children, who had their bids rejected was the sole reason decided on price as there could be no other reason due to the previous good safety record of the Council's "Home to School" transport service ?
3) How many contracts were awarded and their total value to individuals or companies or other organisations that do not primarily operate in our city ? Or simply - applied from addresses from outside Salford ?
4) Can you confirm that no contracts have been awarded to companies/individuals/organisations that are not licensed to carry out such work ? Can you confirm that contracts have been awarded to operators that hold a restricted license ? In doing so has not awarded these contractors "many" contracts which may mean the operator chosen is now breaching the terms of their restricted license and in doing so may not be insured to carry out such work for the Council ? For example, may only be licensed to operate two vehicles, must not be their main source of income and must be a part-time venture as well as other restrictions in holding such liceneses ? If the Council has awarded many contracts to the same operator is the Council fully satisfied with its checks and systems that confirm that all the vehicles the Council is hiring are fully insured for the purposes of the work that is being done, for example if a fully licensed PSV Operator is required rather than a provider that only holds a restricted license ?
5) Can you confirm that when awarding contracts which have been submitted through the Chest system, once awarded a provider is able to sub-contract that work out ? If so, if proper checks were carried out through the bidding system, why is the Council allowing contracts that it has awarded to be sub-contracted and what checks have been put in place ?
6) Does Salford City Council check whether any contractors are being investigated by the Traffic Commissioner ?
7) Is "The Chest" system a fully trusted and well-functioning system that has been fully operational throughout the whole period in which the Council has been seeking bids for their contracts ?
8) Once contracts are awarded and in operation what checks are carried out by the Council to ensure our children are transported safely, the contracts are adhered to and our children are not put at risk for example drivers of vehicles that do not have permission to transport our "vulnerable" chioldren ?
9) That all our "vulnerable" children that require "escorting" ie additional staff because of their needs, will be provided this service to ensure that they are not subjected to risk in any way ?
10) That all personal assistants chosen to escort our "vulnerable" children are fully trained to carry out such work, are aware of risks and all issues in relation to the needs of our children to ensure they are transported safely to scholl and back home again ?
11) That no provider had unfair advantage in tendering bids for example, had sight of other bids prior to submitting their own which gave them an unfair advantage ?
12) That no child in our city thats requires this transport service to get to school because of their "vulnerabilities" have been denied this service or been told they can no longer have the service because of the cuts the Council has had to manage ?
Everyone in our city, I am sure, wants confidence in our Council to be able to tranport our "vulnerable" children from home to school and back safely and I sincerely hope the Council's previous good record continues in providing this invaluable service for those that need it.
However, In view of the concerns I have raised which you have rebutted so publicly, that in the event that in future, as a result of incompetence, cuts, inefficiency or cronyism that any one of our children is or has been subjected to risk which has resulted in harm that you take full responsibility for this ?
I look forward to your response being made public as soon as possible.
A copy of this email has been sent to the City Mayor.
Community Action Party