May 18 2013 Latest news:
By John Elworthy , The Editor
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
A TAXI driver followed a community transport bus to work out how many passengers it was carrying to “identify any possible discrepancies in charging”.
Dave Humphrey is one of a growing band of taxi drivers that claim Fenland Association of Community Transport’s ambitions for growth are threatening their livelihood.
On three occasions Mr Humphrey says he followed dial-a-ride services operated by FACT around Christchurch, Manea, Chatteris and March to work out how many passengers they carried.
“On one occasion they carried just two and on the other occasion’s three passengers,” he said.
Mr Humphrey says he wanted the information to compare to Freedom of Information requests submitted to Cambridgeshire County Council which show the money FACT gets in concessionary bus pass money.
“According to what I was told FACT is getting on average of 6.2 passengers per day in this area but only 3.1 in other parts of the district,” he said. “That’s hardly sensible given they use 16 seater buses.”
FOI requests answered by the council show that although drivers check concessionary passes, the numbers are all collected manually and invoices sent for reimbursement on a monthly basis.
“The county says they check variations when there are signification variations but the figures we came up show some months vary by as much as 60 per cent,” said Mr Humphrey.
From January to March last year FACT carried over 3,000 passengers under the concessionary pass scheme.
“I am not saying people are necessarily fixing the figures but surely it would be responsible to monitor these figures and put them on a daily basis and reconcile that with the invoice?” he said. “It’s very all haphazard “.
Mr Humphrey will be joined by other taxi driver leaders next Friday at a round table meeting with FACT, local councillors and MP Steve Barclay who has called a meeting to look at the community transport provision.
“FACT recently said the trouble is March has too many taxis,” he said. “Well at last count March had 35 taxis but FACT has 34 buses!”
Councillor Kit Owen, a board of management member of FACT, agreed this week that the transport group had made mistakes in claiming on its website it was a ‘registered charity’.
Cllr Owen said it was not a registered charity but was registered as an industrial/provident not for profit group. He said the wording would be changed immediately.
He also authorised the immediate removal of FACT under a local advertising directory where it had been grouped with taxis/private hire.
“FACT has been in touch with the directory and the advert will be moved in 48 hours to a charity minibus section,” he said. “Once again thanks for letting us know.”