Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Green Bus: 20 May 2012 update

Dear Mr Millington

Parents' meeting with Centro

Thank you to the very many parents who turned out for the meeting with Geoff Inskip, Centro's Chief Executive, last Tuesday. Parents may be interested to hear Mr Inskip's subsequent interview with Adrian Goldberg on Radio WM last Friday (available
here).

As you may have heard, Mr Inskip contacted Kieran Keegan - the parent who kindly organised Tuesday's meeting - to say that if The Green Bus were present at the meeting, Centro would not attend. Mr Inskip clearly had a very uncomfortable ride. From the notes, recordings and what Mr Keegan and other parents have told us, the key points Mr Inskip made were as follows:


  • Centro has made no final decision on child fares on The Green Bus, but would aim to do so by the end of July 2012 (however in Mr Inskip's BBC Radio WM interview he says Centro will be making a firm decision by the end of May)
  • Centro had offered a child fare contribution to our customers of £300, but we had rejected it (Centro has made no open offer to us; and the law says that the child fare reimbursement for our pass prices should be at least £522)
  • there had been political change at the May 2012 elections which meant that the new ITA - the 27 councillors who are Centro's political masters - were reviewing Centro's child fares policy (this can't be right, because the districts haven't yet decided which councillors to send to the ITA, and therefore they haven't met to discuss policy!)
  • parents living outside the West Midlands would receive no child fares from September 2012 (this is a problem if you live in Worcestershire - FW5 and FW6 parents please note particularly)
  • Hagley Catholic High School was also outside the West Midlands - it sounded unlikely that journeys to this school would continue to receive Centro child half-fares (all our pupils travelling to Hagley live in the West Midlands - Centro's argument is that the last mile of the bus routes is in Worcestershire, and so journeys to the school as a whole do not qualify for child fares)
  • Centro acknowledged that not every pupil would be able to get to school if The Green Bus was not running
  • That it was Centro's view that the ordinary bus network had the capacity to cope if The Green Bus was not running (not as far as we can see!)
  • In response to a specific question, that National Express West Midlands drivers have CRB checks (in fact, they don't)

It is clear to us that many of the points Mr Inskip made did not seem to fit well with the available factual information. A transcript of the meeting has now been produced and this is a matter we are progressing with the Chairman of the ITA as a matter of some urgency.

So where are we now?

Until Centro tell us how much reimbursement they will give us for the half-fares we're required to charge children, we cannot advertise our pass prices or sell our product for 2012/13. This is a strategy Centro appear to be employing to put the maximum commercial pressure on us to settle this dispute on their terms. Well, we're not giving up. Pupils using The Green Bus are entitled to a 50% fare, just like any other child in the West Midlands. We'll tell you as soon as Centro makes a decision.

In the meantime, please do bear with us. If the effect of Centro's decision is to give our pupils anything other than half fares, we'll commence judicial review proceedings in the High Court without delay. That process will take many months to complete, but we're confident that it will produce the right result.

A parent group

Kieran Keegan, one of our customers, has been doing some sterling work in the background with Centro. There was considerable anger with Centro after Tuesday's meeting and Mr Keegan has offered to set up an action group for parents. We are very grateful for his offer: please do contact him. I know that Kieran wants to set up a meeting with the ITA and it would be great if other parents were to support him. His email address is
kieran.keegan@btinternet.com.

If you wish to support the Green Bus campaign

Our campaign is about to enter a critical stage and we're going to need some short, targeted and punchy letters to MPs, journalists and councillors. Volunteers with expertise in law and campaigning would be appreciated. I would very much appreciate a small group to help with this task: the time commitment would be low, but the effect could be very powerful. I'm at ian.mack@thegreenbus.co.uk.

I am very grateful to you all for your support. We know that, like us, you are all very busy people. The time you find to send emails to us, or on our behalf, is very much appreciated: they really do help to keep us going.

Kind regards

Ian Mack
Managing Director
The Green Bus

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