It has been ruled Hull council was prejudiced within the way it directed people applying for brand spanking new taxi licences to only one training provider to get a necessary qualification.
Until changes were made earlier this year, the council’s application pack for brand spanking new taxi drivers only mentioned one provider of a compulsory BTEC course.
It involved 150 hours of home revision and supported a 175-page training document followed by a three-day classroom course.
In a complaint to the government Ombudsman, the Humber Taxi Association (HTA) claimed the council unfairly signposted applicants to North Humberside Motor Trades Group Training Association, a charity which supplies apprenticeships to the authority’s course department Hull Training.
In a new report, the Ombudsman said the council had exhibited bias towards one among its own sub-contractors by failing to incorporate details of an alternate independent accredited BTEC provider, Humberside Training Associates, which was found out in 2018 with the support of the HTA.
After getting an initial complaint over the appliance pack, the watchdog said council agreed to incorporate details of the choice provider during a Revised Version .
However, the new pack still only named an equivalent provider and issued contact details while stating: “The BTEC are often obtained through any accredited provider.”
“The council did not take the necessary action. The revised pack stated any provider might be used but it still in effect, pointed applications to at least one training provider.
The Ombudsman also ruled the council had not appropriately reviewed or renewed its contract with the charity after initially fixing and funding the BTEC course as a pilot scheme seven years earlier.
The report said this absence of oversight disagreed with Hull Training’s own written policies which require sub-contracted contracts to be reviewed annually.
It said the council’s reactions to grievances raised by the HTA about this and its links to the sub-contracting company were “not transparent”.
The Ombudsman said from the judgement: “The council must first apologise to the (Humber Taxi) Association for the lack of transparency in its responses to their complaints and correspondence.
“An apology will be sought for the time lost in withdrawing Training Provider Y (the Motor Trades Group) from the appliance pack supplied.”
As a part of the decision, the council was also instructed to pay £250 to the taxi association in recognition of the “time and trouble” it had gone to in pursuing the matter.
David Stuart, a director at Humberside Training Associates, said: “It may be a fairly damning report and really shows how independent training providers within the area, including Humberside Training Associates, have suffered as a consequence of the council’s actions taken.
“The side-effects have been truly felt by the Hull’s residents, from the actions taken by the council and potential drivers not being given a freedom of choice and encouragement to chase taxiing as a career, which has had a severe effect on our taxi service in the area.
“It was completely inappropriate for them to utilise just one provider of the driver training course, which just happened to be a subcontractor of its own adult education department.”
A spokesperson for the council announced: “We shall continue to try to take a more adequate approach when finding training providers and other outside contractors.
“Hull city council will, from this point, supply drivers with the training need in full compliance with current guidance and are ready to provide the high standard of service expected by the public, including drivers having an honest working knowledge of the town and having the ability to speak this to their passengers.”