Monday 14 March 2016

Brent and Harrow Transport Services to merge

Brent Cabinet will tonight consider a proposal to merge the Transport Services of the two brooughs that are used for children and adults with special needs to transport them to schools, colleges or day centres.

The overall aim is to make savings in both Councils' budgets. £1.13m will be saved between the two councils over 3 years and there may eventually be redundancies of drivers, escorts and front line operatives.  This will depend on attempts to market the service more widely.

Consultation in Brent produced different results from families with child users and adult users:

The report says that adult users will be reduced by changes to provision moving away from the use of day centres.

The report LINK states:

This merger of SEN transport services presents a business opportunity for both councils to gain the benefits of economies of scale in contractual arrangements, greater efficiencies in operational front line staffing (drivers and escorts), shared policies from cross working with seconded staff, route sharing and rationalisation and systems and processes. It also provides the opportunity for better utilisation of Harrow’s premises to reduce the operational costs of the combined service.

 This merger will deliver cost reduction in the following areas:

·      Premises
·      Route sharing and route reduction and the related front line operational costs
·      Vehicles – greater economies of scale with vehicle contractor and reduced running costs
·      Systems and processes  
·      Contractual arrangements – ( the current BTS taxi contract and the labour supply contract expires this year and must be renewed) and provides opportunities for better contractual terms given the larger value contracts
·      Business development and growth including hiring out spare capacity and further collaborations.

In addition to the operational and contractual efficiencies, there is scope to achieve further savings from demand management activities. Achieving desired outcomes here would require actions to be taken by the commissioning directorates/departments, i.e. children and adult services in both councils and a shared approach being adopted. The implementation period would include the finalisation and agreement of a joint policy built on shared resources.

The overarching proposal is that the SEN transport services for the two boroughs are merged and operate under the umbrella of Harrow and Brent Special Needs Transport Service (HB SNT). The service will be hosted by Harrow Council and run from Harrow’s Central Depot. The management of the business will sit with Harrow and will include the secondment of any relevant Brent staff to Harrow under a secondment agreement.

The report recognises that changes may present initial problems for users:

Current users of BTS are likely to have a learning or physical disability and be elderly or young. Any changes to the current service will have an impact on them. The current service is not being withdrawn. It will stay, but as a service run in partnership with Harrow. From the users’ side, not all the changes that come with a shared service will be noticeable. 

What may noticeable is the bus, the driver and the escort and any variation in pick up and drop off times or other occupants on the bus. Routes will be looked at, so there may be more of a change for some users than others in regard to the above. Some users may find any initial change in driver, for example, unsettling for a while. Once the new service is underway, every effort will be made to ensure consistency in drivers and escorts, so users will hopefully soon become accustomed to the new service. The change should not be very noticeable because Harrow and Brent already share some routes, some Brent back office employees will still be in place as will the current drivers and escorts.

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