ATG was run without safety checks
Shocking council report concealed since October reveals failure of the community transport group at every level, including accusations that it employed a sex offender.
An audit of community transport organisation, the Accessible Transport Group (ATG), which went into receivership last March, reveals that there was no record of vehicle safety checks and DBS checks were not done.
ATG, which ran 600 vehicles on Section 19 and 22 ‘not for profit’ permits, carrying more than 2,000 school children on more than 200 routes in the Birmingham area, was declared insolvent last year and its services were taken over in July by National Express’ accessible transport arm. ATG had lost money in every year of its operation apart from 2016, despite previously collecting a grant of more than £7m each year from West Midlands Combined Authority for Ring and Ride services.
ATG had outbid local operators for tendered contracts at a number of local authorities to build its business, in addition to running a DRT ‘igo’ service with Section 22 Community Bus Permits. It concurrently held a 15-vehicle O licence. All of its 800 drivers and escorts were paid employees, according to the last filed accounts in 2017.
Now, an audit by the city council passed to Bus and Coach Buyer – published internally in October 2019 but kept under wraps – reveals that ATG did not understand the DBS service, and out of 599 driver records, 568 did not have a DBS clearance number, and 62 had no driving licence recorded.
Of one employee, the report says: ‘It is of concern that the incident alerted to BCC by one of the commissioned transport providers, in relation to the DBS process, had very serious implications.’ It says: ‘…there is no up to date commissioning framework in place, unapproved sub-contracting has taken place, and the master driver list has key information missing and is out of date. Unapproved sub-contracting without any quality assurance checks on the provider is exposing the Education and Skills Directorate and the City Council to unacceptable safeguarding risks.’
The council found that contracts were extended on a rolling basis, year on year, without any diligence checks, and subcontracting had taken place in breach of contract. Extensions had been given without any of the legal paperwork: ‘…in 2018 Cabinet gave delegated authority for the then Director of Children and Young People to approve extension of the contract. However, we have been unable to confirm that the required actions have taken place. It is unclear why this did not take place, however, this rendered the contract illegal. Amendments were also made to the contract but without any Deed of Variation, making the contract almost unenforceable, as well as illegal.’
National Express West Midlands took over the work of ATG with West Midlands Accessible Transport Ltd in August last year. The company has applied for O licences but, at the time of going to press, these had not been granted.