RICHMOND COUNCIL has tendered out its cab transport contract after being told to improve its school transport service for children with special educational needs (SEN).
A report by the local authority’s audit committee highlighted a number of issues which it said had to be addressed.
An investigation revealed that contracts between the council and local cab firms had been lost and effectively, “handed the operators a blank cheque to charge what they wanted”.
The report also found that Richmond Council could not guarantee that cab drivers on SEN contracts had undergone adequate criminal record checks.
A key passage said: “Criminal record checks, as well as disclosure and barring checks information were unreliable – due to continuous overwriting – and were no longer a full and complete record of all routes taken and passenger assistants provided.”
Richmond Council spent £3.8 million on SEN transport in 2015/16 – £10,000 per pupil per year – and the cab transport service has been taken over by Achieving for Children (AFC).
Councillor for children’s services, Paul Hodges, said:
I expect the new service to be both easier to manage and also lead to significant savings. This in turn will enable the council to protect funding for SEN services.
“With regards to SEN transport, we brought the management of it within AFC, having previously been managed in another department.
“We consulted with parents on an updated transport policy and have recently been undergoing a process that aligns procurement across Richmond and Kingston. The new system, designed after a consultation with parents of SEN children will allow pupils to travel independently to and from school if they want to.”