Ombudsman rules against council following training provider complaint

David Stuart

A Hull-based business which provides work-based learning has welcomed rulings against Hull City Council by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The ombudsman found the local authority was at fault after it was accused of bias and preferential treatment in the provision of work-based training in the city.

The council responded that “it always endeavours to follow a fair approach” when recruiting training providers and other outside contractors.

Hull City Council been ordered to pay £250 to the complainant and told to apologise.

David Stuart, director at Humberside Training Associates, said: “It is a pretty damning report and really shows how independent training providers in the area, including Humberside Training Associates, have suffered as a result of the council’s actions.”

As part of its licensing requirements as a local authority Hull City Council must licence some form of taxi and private hire driver vocational training.

In Hull this means all new taxi licence applicants must undertake a B-TEC course and, if appropriate, a literacy and numeracy test.

However, in one of its faults the ombudsman noted the council’s taxi licence application pack only signposted taxi licence applicants to one training provider for these courses – a sub-contractor of Hull Training, the council’s own adult education department.

Stuart added: “The council blatantly disadvantaged us. It was clearly inappropriate for the council’s licensing pack to refer to only one provider of the B-TEC course, which happened to be a sub-contractor of its own adult ed’ department – nice work if you can get it!

“Even though we had been running our own taxi and private hire B-TEC course for a year in partnership with the Humber Taxi Association, Hull City Council were so biased as to not include our details.

“At least then, it would have been fair and open and potential taxi drivers in Hull would have been able to choose between the course providers.”

The ombudsman also highlighted how the council had not reviewed or renewed contractual arrangements between Hull Training and its sub-contractor for seven years.

He noted in his findings: “Hull Training’s Supply Chain and Subcontractor Fees and Charges Policy states that providers are expected to complete a due diligence process annually and subcontractor contracts are in place for one year. Their contracts are not automatically renewed. So, it is also unclear why no review [took place].”

The council spokesman said: “Hull City Council always endeavours to follow a fair approach when recruiting training providers and other outside contractors.

“This is a report from a ruling from June 16 2020. Since the ruling, the council has begun a full review of taxi driver training including the knowledge test and any future provider will be required to undertake a quality assurance process.

“Hull City Council always strives to make sure the city’s drivers are trained in accordance with current guidance and are able to provide the high standard of service expected by the public, including drivers having a good working knowledge of the city and being able to communicate this to their passengers.”