The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Association complains about the way the Council has dealt with a BTEC vocational training course for private hire and taxi drivers. There was no fault by the Council in its decision to suspend its acceptance of certain BTEC courses for licensed drivers.
- The complaint is made by an Association which represents private hire and taxi drivers. The Association complains about the way the Council has dealt with a BTEC vocational training course for drivers promoted by the Association.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the complaint and spoke to Mr B who represents the Association. I asked the Council for its comments on the complaint and additional information. I sent a copy of a draft of this statement to Mr B and the Council and invited their comments
What I found
- The Council’s policy says drivers who wish to become licensed private hire or hackney carriage drivers must undertake a BTEC or NVQ in passenger transport or similar as approved by the Council in the first year they are licensed.
- The Council advised drivers in March 2018 that it would not support any ‘fast-track’ BTEC course which included the one promoted by the Association. It considered such courses circumvented the stated the need to gain a qualification that had taken a degree of learning with study which would take time to complete and show competency through practical learning and putting that into practice.
- The training provider for the course promoted by the Association spoke to the Council just before the Council wrote notifying it was not going to recognise the ‘fast-track’ course. The provider explained the course was the same as the NVQ (which they also offered) in terms of content and rigour of the knowledge and understanding required. He said the difference was the BTEC was externally assessed by a series of on-line tests whereas the NVQ is assessed by written or oral questioning. The provider stated the NVQ also included for workplace observations and assessments of the learner carrying out the roles. This was the only difference with the content.
In commenting on the draft of this statement the Council has said the full course requirements are set out by the company who provides accreditation for the course on its website. The Council’s concern was the speed of delivery of the course and that drivers were only completing 40 hours study rather than 150 hours referred to by the examination board. The Council therefore considered there were sufficient grounds to suspend its acceptance of the three-day qualification. The Council is reviewing all BTEC taxi driver courses across different training providers and it expected to make a formal policy change in December 2018.
- It is for the Council to decide on what qualifications it considers licensed drivers should have. It is not for the Ombudsman to challenge the Council’s decisions provided they have been made properly taking into account all relevant information.
- The Council had information about the general requirements for the BTEC qualification and the three-day courses that were being offered which included the one promoted by the Association. The Council acted quickly to suspend its acceptance of the three-day courses so that drivers would not enrol on the courses believing it would be accepted by the Council. I consider the Council had enough information to decide it should suspend its acceptance of the courses and there was no fault in that decision.
- This decision by the Council was not flawed but the Council needs to confirm its position and that should happen soon. If Mr B considers the final decision made by the Council is flawed then he can raise that as a further complaint with the Council and then with the Ombudsman if he is not satisfied with the Council’s response.
- There was no fault by the Council in its decision to suspend its acceptance of certain BTEC courses for licensed drivers.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman