West Lancashire Borough Council’s Transport Manager has been given a formal warning and ordered to take a ‘refresher course’ by the Traffic Commissioner following an investigation by the Vehicle and Operators Service Agency (VOSA) into the Councils Street Scene’s Department refuse service.
The decision was taken following a public inquiry hearing on Wednesday 29 January at Ormskirk Magistrates Court. Until this hearing all the information about the investigation had remained confidential.
During the hearing it emerged from the VOSA investigation that the Borough Council had no specific process in place for monitoring if drivers may exceed their hours. In this area VOSA required the Council to make improvements.
Besides issuing the formal warning and refresher course attendance for the Transport Manager, the Borough Council will also be audited again in April with a focus on the Working Time Directive compliance and overloading of refuse vehicles.
West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper welcomed the Traffic Commissioner’s decision as a sobering lesson for West Lancashire Borough Council but is angry that the council’s incompetence meant council taxpayers’ money was spent defending their incompetence.
Following the decision, MP Rosie Cooper said:
“The Traffic Commissioner’s decision to issue a formal warning puts paid to the Borough Council’s initial denials there were no issues with the Street Scene Department.
“It is a disgrace that it required three inspection visits from VOSA and a public inquiry for the Council to get their house in order.
"I initially contacted West Lancashire Borough Council about concerns relating to the Working Time Directive and Domestic Drivers Hours. Unsatisfied with the Borough Council’s response I referred the case to VOSA. During 2012 and 2013 VOSA undertook three investigations into the Borough Council’s operations. On conclusion of their investigations VOSA then referred West Lancashire Borough Council to the Traffic Commissioner. In VOSA’s correspondence to me it mentioned ‘shortcomings identified by our examiner.’
“Whilst the Borough Council will attempt to play down this warning, it highlights serious questions about the competency of the council in managing residents’ services and their staff effectively. Why didn’t the council officer recognise the incompetency that everyone else knew about. They could have dealt with it immediately and saved the taxpayers money.
“I still believe the council owe West Lancashire residents an explanation about how they got into this mess in the first place. They also need to be clear about how much this has cost the council taxpayers of West Lancashire, especially as the council hired a firm of solicitors to represent them at the public inquiry.
“We have a situation in which council taxpayers’ money is being used for legal representation because of the council’s own incompetence. I am not so sure the Council would be as lax if the senior officers had to pay for the costs out of their own pockets.
“From beginning to end this fiasco has been an unmitigated disaster; yet the only people paying the price are the residents of West Lancashire.
“As well as explaining their failure to West Lancashire residents, the Borough Council needs to offer an unreserved apology!”