People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann says Bready busman, William Leonard, who claims he was put of business by the non-implementation of European Union ‘cabotage’ laws governing extra-jurisdictional transport contracts by foreign firms, deserves answers.
But the powers-that-be in Northern Ireland and sources in the European Commission have advised the Sentinel that the situation regarding ‘cabotage’ - temporary bus contracts fulfilled by licensed foreign firms on a temporary basis in another state - is now regularised here.
The European Commission source advised contracts held by foreign companies may be regarded as temporary if awarded for a term of one year, extendable for two more.
The source said: “In the scenario presented to the Commission by the Northern Ireland Authorities the contracts concerned were concluded for one year, extendable for two additional years.
“The Commission services considered that this limitation is of a short nature taking into account the nature of the regular services. The Commission services also found it reasonable to think that contracts concerning school transport last at least one school year.”
But Mr Leonard and now Mr McCann regard this as a stretch of the term ‘temporary.”
Mr McCann said: “William Leonard is entitled to a full explanation of how he was effectively cut out of competition for school-bus contracts in his own area. What’s striking from the correspondence is that none of the many officials William has been in touch with gives either a full explanation or defence of the way he has been treated. On the face of it, he has been denied his statutory rights and equal treatment,
“I will be bringing the case to the Infrastructure Committee at the first opportunity when the Assembly resumes and demanding the answers, which William should have had years ago. This is not a left-over issue which can be chalked down to experience. We need to know that procedures are in place to ensure that such an anomalous and discriminatory situation does not arise again. And, at the very, very least, William is entitled to an apology from the Department of Education, the Department for Infrastructure and the Education Authority.”