On 23 February 2021 the Cabinet considered a paper entitled “Travel and swimming services review”. The proposal for the joint venture with Suffolk Norse to end and the assets, staff and services relating to home to school travel and swimming instruction be transferred to Vertas as from 1 September 2021 was agreed. This will mean 40 home to school services currently in the Suffolk Norse bulk contract will from 1 September 2021 be provided by Vertas. Swimming instruction and related services will also be available from Vertas. A smooth transition of staff, assets and services from Suffolk Norse to Vertas is being planned so parents and schools should see minimal change.
Suffolk Norse served the County Council with a 12 month termination of agreement notice effective from 1 September 2020, which will end the Joint Venture partnership on 31 August 2021.
The County Council considers it is important to retain the ability to shape the transport market if necessary. Suffolk has a good range of large, medium and small operators. However, the Covid 19 pandemic has hit the public transport market hard and there are concerns about the long-term sustainability of the market. The ability to allocate work to a wholly owned company will enable the County Council to have more influence over the market, through competition and ability to step in when there is a failure of an individual operator and a need to maintain business continuity.
The Joint Venture with Suffolk Norse will end, and a new agreement will be drawn up with Vertas (Ipswich) Limited. Vertas (Ipswich) Limited is an CloseSuffolk County Council wholly-owned company. CloseSuffolk County Council exercises control over Vertas (Ipswich) Limited and more than 80% of Vertas (Ipswich) Limited’ activities are carried out for CloseSuffolk County Council. Under the Teckal exemption, the Public Contract Regulations permit CloseSuffolk County Council to award a contract for services to Vertas (Ipswich) Limited without the requirement to run a procurement.
There are 40 routes in the bulk contract. These form 4% of all the routes put out to tender by CloseSuffolk County Council.
96% of all routes are open to public tender via Suffolk Sourcing.
1 September 2021
The 5 year offer from Suffolk Norse was not accepted due to significant price increases. The proposal from Vertas offers better value for money and good long-term prospects, building on the 3-year track record of home to school transport provision for The Priory school.
As staff and vehicles will transfer from Suffolk Norse to Vertas pupils there will be minimal change for pupils. Subject to the usual operational planning change made during the summer, most children will have the same vehicle and driver on their home to school service. Vertas may change the livery of vehicles but more information will be provided on this in due course.
Vertas are planning to offer a similar level of service as previously, including transport to swimming pools. Vertas will be in contact with schools in due course to set out their service offer.
Working with a wholly owned company will provide an opportunity to consider investment in more sustainable public transport vehicles, building on the experience of Vertas fleet management.