PARENTS who have lost trust in Southend Council’s school transport service for children with special educational needs are prepared to take legal action.

Families of pupils at St Christopher’s who rely on the council’s contracted SEN Transport provider to get their children safely to and from school are demanding a change of provider.

So far, the council has stood firm over retaining Vecteo – a joint venture between the council and London Hire Community Services – and has issued apologies for safeguarding and organisational failures.

“At the moment legal action is an option and is something we have explored,” campaigner Colin Nickless explained. “We have solicitors lined up and a crowd funding campaign also lined up.

“I am keen for us to avoid all of this, however, going down the legal route is the only way to get the answers we want but we hope to not have to put families through more suffering and we hope that the council does the right thing.”

A petition calling for the council to stop using Vecteo for SEN school transportation has amassed more than 1,000 signatures.

Parents have alleged that the provider, which took over at the start of this school year, has left parents waiting hours for collection and children unattended or without adequate chaperones.

Conservative councillors have joined parents in demanding action from the Labour-run council.

“It’s well over a month into the new contract. ‘Teething’ problems are one thing, but when it drags on, we need action to fix it,” Cllr James Courtenay said. “Sorry just doesn’t quite cut it anymore.”

Cllr Dan Nelson added: “This is getting beyond a joke. The most vulnerable people put at risk due to sheer incompetence. Get rid and start again. Before something truly and utterly unthinkable happens... again.”

Cllr Laurie Burton, cabinet member for education and children’s services, said: “Dissolving the joint venture partnership as requested by the petition, would leave the Council with no contract, no provider and a lengthy procurement process to find another provider. This would cause far more disruption over a longer period to school transport of students with SEND, than continuing with the joint venture partnership and making sure issues are resolved promptly and improvements made quickly. Vecteo is focusing on improvements to get the current service up to the best possible standard.

“We understand the frustrations and anger of some parents and while there were problems, we have seen improvements to the service throughout September. There is still more to be done, so we are working hard with Vecteo to make sure this happens. I want to reassure these parents we are doing all we can to make sure a safe and efficient service is in place going forward.”