Councillors gagged over Brighton and Hove school transport chaos

Posted On 12 Sep 2019 at 9:45 pm

Two councillors said this evening that they had been gagged after finding out how much the council is paying cost-cutting consultants involved in chaotic new school transport contracts.

Former council leader Mary Mears and fellow Conservative councillor Lee Wares said that they were not allowed to share information that was in the public interest.

The pair have been asking questions on behalf of families affected by the school transport contract for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND).

But, they said, information about the tendering and appointment of the consultant Edge Public Solutions, how much the firm is being paid and how the fee is calculated have been marked confidential.

They added that Brighton and Hove City Council had also marked confidential the internal data that showed the savings required from the budget to pay for the consultants and other set-up costs.

Councillor Lee Wares said “It is scandalous that with the fiasco surrounding the school transport contract unravelling on a daily basis the council even considered preventing us from disclosing the information.

“The audit report says that a ‘business case’ is not required because the savings will come from the budget.

“We now know what the gross savings will be and how much the consultants will be paid together with other set-up costs.

“However, the council say that if we reveal the details we risk being sued and breaching the Member’s Code of Conduct.

“The bottom line is we are being gagged.”

Councillor Mary Mears said: “It is absolutely in the public interest for everybody to know what is going on.

“This is taxpayer money and the council should be totally transparent and open.

“If there is nothing to hide or worry about, why on earth would they prevent the public and those families affected by these issues from knowing?

“What is also of concern is that the council have now employed additional staff to oversee this contract but do not account for the additional cost.

“Nor do they take account of the enormous amount of lost teaching time each day because school staff now have to escort pupils between vehicles and buildings.”

  1. Rob Arbery Reply

    Honesty and transparency seem to have gone out of a window. This process is simply out of control and I am willing to bet there is either no saving or a minimal saving being achieved at the cost of misery and stress to parents,carers and pupils.

    Shame on them all they have failed our most vulnerable and deserving children.

  2. Marianne Moore Reply

    This whole thing is an absolute scandal and I think it’s time that parents and staff take action to SHAME this council into restoring a proper safe service.

  3. Daniel Harris Reply

    The Tories want privatisation and now moan about it. TBF Labour sort it out, we the members asked for in-house transport. Stop the procurement process now. Its blairitte. Not good.

  4. Lisa Reply

    We don’t use transport as I’m able to go to the school every day and have done for the last 6 years. I have seen and become friendly with drivers and escorts in the past as they are caring for our sons friends. This week has been heartbreaking to witness. Children who have made it in are not their usual happy and cheeky selves. Teachers are trying so hard running up and down the school stairs and corridors trying to reach children to escort them to classrooms. I worry about teachers burning out. Everywhere is so busy, so many taxis, it’s difficult for pedestrians. There are three schools on this stretch of road going or returning from drop off with small kids. This has caused so much upset for all our children at school. Seeing my friends stress and worry about their vulnerable but wonderful kids go through this is heartbreaking and exhausting, all for what? Now this gagging order crying out loud!!!

  5. Marion pitman Reply

    Maybe these decision makers need to visit the school and see the chaos and upset they have caused to our vulnerable children. Many find a change in driver or Carer a trauma this will have caused huge anxiety in these poor children

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