Welcome to Bus & Coach Association (BCA), the new and upcoming voice for the industry. Although BCA was launched in February 2014, its founder, Martin Allan has achieved much more than anyone else when it comes to kicking butt in respect of Section 19/22 Permits. This one single issue has become a growing thorn in the sides of reputable, hard working commercial operators because there is no level playing field.
Section 19/22 Permits
The raging debate has gone on for more than twenty years. Why is it that Section 19/22 permit holders are getting away with illegally tendering for contracts? More to the point, why has no trade body done something about it? After all, this has gone on year after year and it would be fair to say that it has put some of the commercial operators out of business. If left to go on, it will most certainly do the same to others. Permit holders perform passenger transport movement without any necessary qualifications in the road and passenger transport industry. This has to stop. It has to stop sooner rather than later.
So just how has Martin Allan moved this issue further up the agenda?
His first involvement was back in January 2012 when permit holders were awarded work he had tendered for. Martin was, like many other transport professionals, upset and concerned at the level of grant funding given to voluntary community groups and charities who then were given paid work after using the grant funding to purchase vehicles, and in some instances, these community groups now have fleets of vehicles, some larger than those of some commercial operators! Community groups are able to perform passenger transport movement without any legal requirement to meet established PCV regulations and licensing. Martin’s MP, Sir Alan Meale confirmed that in his view the action of the local authority in handing out grant aid to a community transport group, clearly breached EU state aid regulations.
In February 2012 after researching documents in the EU, He discovered infringements by local authorities regarding the EU state aid regulations. He made a complaint to the commission, and the complaint was acknowledged and he was asked to provide the evidence surrounding two local authorities.
Findings & evidence
Since early 2012, Martin has uncovered evidence to support his MP’s view. He has discovered that this political hot potato that has been on the back burner since the Hagley School crash in which twelve children and their teacher died, has, in BUSK’s view, only managed to continue because parents do not know about these permits and how they are operated. Parents are unaware of the two-tier system that affects the safety of passengers. So, quite apart from the issue of no level playing field, running parallel to this is the question of safety.
Evidence submitted to state aid department in Brussels. European Commission confirms the funding is NOT authorised by the Commission and is likely that the aid was unlawful.
Jonathan Mitchell QC confirms grant funding for community/voluntary groups in transport cannot exceed €100,000.00 over a three year period. Submission forwarded to Nottinghamshire County Council’s legal department. Barrister advises a legal opinion to be sought from a leading barrister in European Law, Lord Lester QC. Nottinghamshire County Council ignores submission because they are totally unqualified to deal with the legal issues surrounding state aid.
Legal advice sought from Lord Lester QC and he asks us for more evidence from around the U.K. Freedom of Information requests made to all local authorities in England and Wales including all London Borough Councils. Hundreds of sets of community transport accounts, were cross referenced with the income and grant funding. UK operator complaints were in recorded. Evidence was discovered of trips and tours and the effect on member states (they should stop local)The Department for Transport (DfT) releases a statement saying it is up to local authorities to comply with state aid regulations and that they did not want to see the community transport groups harmed nor diminished. Twice, the DfT and the Community Transport Association (CTA) have declined to take up our invitation to meet and discuss the issues.
- Freedom of Information requests to the DfT, about South Yorkshire PTE surrounding grant/bus funding to South Yorkshire PTE, DfT confirmed they were unaware that funding given to the PTE group was used to buy buses for the community transport sector and these grant aided buses were used on home to school contracts for the local council, effectively putting commercial operators under severe financial pressure.
Evidence submitted to Lord Lester who forwarded this to the EU state aid department along with the evidence, accounts F.O.I. requests etc.
Complaints lodged with EU internal services department regarding infringements into EU procurement law. Professor Christopher Bovis from Hull University, expert in European Procurement Law confirms that unlawful state aid was granted, infringements in European Procurement law were made and that local authorities were not applying transport regulations in full and in line with the EU Directives. Further complaints were lodged with the EU transport department regarding to the access to the profession, the 10/71 Directive and the Drivers’ CPC Directive, in that, local authorities were not abiding by the transport regulations when tendering contracts in line with the Directives. DfT then stated that a company that sets out not to make a profit will not be required to conform to these two Directives.
A telephone conference between the state aid department and solicitors Martin Lee & Co. A request was made Martin and others present to consider narrowing down their investigation to just a number of authorities. Confirmation was given that talks had taken place between that office and the EU transport sector with an outcome that there is a clear infringement on the two-tier licensing system, Section 19/22 Permits and the O-Licence Regulations.
Second conference held with state aid department. Confirmation given that the preliminary investigation will now start into state aid and the two-tier licensing system. Investigations continue.
A CPT member personally submitted evidence to the Senior Traffic Commissioner. The response was that no action could be taken. This is because Traffic Commissioners lack the necessary legal powers to deal with this situation. Kevin Rooney of the NETC confirmed that there is no possibility of any changes in statutory legislation with regard to authority being given to Transport Commissioners in this respect.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport published a letter from Steven Salmon, Policy Director, to members requesting operators to submit evidence surrounding any community transport that was infringing onto their business.
A former CPT regional committee member submits evidence of wrong doing by community transport groups. His evidence was shamefully shelved with no action was taken.
Senior Official submits further evidence to Mr. Salmon regarding community transport wrong doing and, once again the result was also shamefully shelved with no action was taken.
In November 2013 the Federation of Passenger Transport Northern Ireland (FPTNI) was called to a meeting to discuss community transport groups tendering for contracts. The departmental solicitors advised the FPTNI that the community transport partnerships were not exclusively non-commercial. The test required under the European Regulations the 10/71 2009 Directive – Access to The profession. This legal clarification confirms our approach on this situation.
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If you have any further information or concerns regarding the above, please do not hesitate to contact BCA at: