Calls for police investigation into Birmingham school taxi contract

Calls for police probe into bankrupt Birmingham Council’s £11M payments to tiny taxi firm charging £200-a-day to take one pupil to school – as city faces selling major assets from library to museum and airport to cover debts

  • EXCLUSIVE: Birmingham Council opposition urge investigation school taxi firm
  • Tory Ewan Mackey said this as it was revealed official was working in firm’s office
  • READ MORE: Birmingham official overseeing school taxis worked from same building as cab firm at centre of £11M over-pay probe as profits rose to £1.6M
  • Do YOU have a story on Birmingham Council? [email protected]

Senior politicians at ‘bankrupt’ Birmingham Ccuncil have called for a police investigation into the authority’s cosy relationship with a school taxi firm charging £200-a-day to take one pupil three miles to school.

This comes after MailOnline revealed a senior official at the council worked for two years from the same tiny West Bromwich community centre as Green Destinations Ltd, who were later at the centre £11million overcharging probe.

Deputy opposition leader at Birmingham City Council, Ewan Mackey, told MailOnline that there should be an ‘independent investigation which, if necessary, involves the police [or other authorities] depending on what they uncover.’

The Tory councillor said it should find out if the council was ‘awarding contracts unfairly’ and that the law was not broken when spending taxpayer money.

This also comes amid reports that the council could be forced into a fire sale of its crown jewels, including the Library of Birmingham, the city’s Museum and Art Gallery and the authority’s stake in Birmingham Airport.

Birmingham Council is currently in turmoil over issues including:

  • Green Destinations billing £11million over the odds for home to school transport, including bills in excess of £200 to drive one pupil three miles to school and back.
  • Senior Council official Jay Shimano was revealed to be working in the same building as this taxi firm as their profits rose by 1,900% to more than £1.6million.
  • The council has gone ‘bankrupt’ as they face an at least £750million equal pay bill 
  • The debt-ridden council, the largest in Europe, now faces a shortfall of £87million.
  • Costs of troubled Oracle IT system balloon from £13million to up to £100million.
  • Council leader John Cotton took a trip to New York to celebrate his 50th birthday while the city was falling into disarray.
  • The council may now be forced to sell off prized assets including the Library of Birmingham and their stake in Birmingham Airport

Deputy leader of the opposition Ewan Mackey (pictured) at ‘bankrupt’ Birmingham has called for a police investigation into the city council’s cosy relationship with a school taxi firm

Jay Shimano (left), compliance manager at the Birmingham City Council’s children and young people’s travel service, worked out of the same offices as major school taxi contractor Green Destinations Ltd, owned by Jameel Malik (right)

Green Destinations has grown to be the most dominant school travel supplier in Birmingham since 2020. As of 2023, it charges approximately £17million to run about 460 of the council’s 1,300 routes, around a third more than in 2022, leaked data suggests (pictured: a minibus at their depot in Hockley, Birmingham)

‘Bankrupt’ Birmingham City Council could be forced to sell prized assets to balance the books

MailOnline revealed on Sunday that Jay Shimano, whose job it is to ensure school taxi safety, and his boss Sarah Norman, directed drivers at rival firms to collect ID badges – without which they would be banned from driving children – from the address on Beeches Road.

READ MORE: Senior Birmingham Council official in charge of overseeing school taxi drivers worked from same building as cab firm at centre of £11M over-pay probe during three years when it’s annual profits rose 1,900% to £1.6M

On arrival, it was suggested to drivers that it might be more lucrative for them to work for GDL, conveniently based in the same building, competitors claimed.

A previous MailOnline investigation showed Green Destinations was charging Birmingham City Council more than £210 to ferry one child just three miles to school and back, journeys a Hackney Carriage would charge less than £20 for.

Cllr Mackey also said that any investigation into the council needs to be ‘rigorous and quick’ due to the ‘escalating financial crisis’ – as he slammed the Labour-run administration which has gone effectively bankrupt.

He said: ‘This potential conflict of interest raised by MailOnline is concerning in the extreme.

‘There must be an investigation to find out if Birmingham City Council were awarding contracts unfairly, that every penny of taxpayers money was spent appropriately, and that no laws were broken.

‘The investigation needs to be not only rigorous but also quick, given the escalating financial crisis in the Birmingham Labour Administration.

‘This service assists some of the most vulnerable children in the City, whose parents must already be worried sick after the financial ineptitude and mismanagement of the Labour Administration has resulted in the Council declaring itself essentially bankrupt, with nearly all spending that is non-essential ceasing and future agreed spend being placed in doubt.’

Shimano, who was promoted from compliance officer to manager at the Labour-run council’s children and young people’s travel service, worked at the same office as the major contractor – which is not in Birmingham but neighbouring authority Sandwell – from 2020 until at least early last year, the council have admitted.

The seven-room building, where GDL still rent a room, is a convenient two-minute walk from the home of Green Destinations owner Jameel Malik, 45, and is believed to be near the home of self-employed council worker Shimano.

A senior official at now-bankrupt Birmingham City Council worked for two years in the same tiny church community centre on Beeches Road, West Bromwich (pictured) as a school transport firm that it was his job to regulate

Malik’s firm has grown to be the dominant school travel supplier in Birmingham since 2020. As of 2023, it charges approximately £17million to run about 460 of the council’s 1,300 routes, around a third more than in 2022, leaked data suggests.

Green Destinations, which was founded by Malik in 2013, recorded occasional losses and meagre profits of no more than a few thousand pounds until the end of the 2018/19 financial year, where they bagged £83,250, according to accounts published on Companies House.

In 2020, their business with Birmingham Council grew and profits shot up, more than doubling to £171,900.

And a year later profits more than quadrupled to £769,060 as council worker Shimano worked alongside them. GDL’s latest accounts until April 2022 show a profit of a whopping £1,646,700.

This investigation lays bare the intimate relationship Green Destinations had with senior council staff in charge of school transport services, as the firm became the dominant contractor in the city.

If GDL’s pricing mirrored that of competitors such as HATS, which works with Birmingham and dozens of other councils, analysis suggests the cost could be closer to £6million – an £11million difference. 

Birmingham City Council said in July that all contracts were ‘tendered in accordance with the council’s procurement processes and in a legally compliant manner’.

On the use of the Beeches Road office, a Birmingham City Council spokesperson previously said: ‘Previously the city council’s Children and Young People’s Travel Service’s compliance team had rented a room on a few occasions in 2020 and 2021 at the Old Church Building, of the Beeches Road Community Enterprise Centre in West Bromwich, for training purposes and issuing licence badges.

‘The team has not used the site since early 2022 and is now based at a council office in Erdington.’

Eye-watering home to school transport fares charged to Birmingham City Council by Green Destinations Ltd (figures have been rounded)

Council auditors Grant Thornton declined to comment on calls for an investigation, but MailOnline understands a complaint has been made to the firm.

MailOnline has reached out to Birmingham City Council and Green Destinations Ltd for comment regarding calls for a police investigation into school transport.

As Birmingham Council went essentially bankrupt, reports have said it may be forced into selling off major assets to balance the books.

The authority is set to put together a financial recovery plan on September 25 and ask the government for ‘exceptional financial support’ – most likely allowing them to borrow money to service debts or selling assets.

Important assets which could be on the table include an 18.68% share in Birmingham Airport,  the Alexander Stadium – which hosted the 2022 Commonwealth games after £72million of investment.

Also up for sale could be the Library of Birmingham, which opened in 2013 at a cost of £189million. It is thought to the be the largest public library in Europe.

Another key cultural asset, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, could also face being sold off. It is a grade II* listed building and holds the largest public collection of Pre-Raphaelite work in the world.

The 250-year-old Sarehole Water Mill, which is near where Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien grew up could also be up for sale. In 2019 thousands of pounds were raised for restoration after one of its wheels broke. It now operates as a museum.

Council leader John Cotton said the council was ‘having to review all of council activity’ and where spending is made, when asked on BBC Politics Midlands about the sale of the city’s assets.

He added: ‘But my priority is that we continue to focus on frontline service delivery and the things that matter most to the people of the city in making those decisions.’

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