A CONSULTANCY contracted to cut council costs was given a £60,000 payout by a council to end its contract early.

Edge Public Solutions was awarded a contract worth up to £499,000 in April last year to “streamline” Brighton and Hove City Council’s home -to-school transport service for disabled children and hand out new transport contracts.

But just days before the school year began in September some unhappy operators pulled out, leaving dozens of children stranded at home.

Now a Freedom of Information request by Conservative councillors has found the city council paid Edge £60,000 to terminate the contract in January. The city council also allowed the consultancy to keep £121,000 it had paid the contractor over the course of the year.

Conservative transport spokesman Councillor Lee Wares said the outcome was “incredible” as the city council is set to overspend its school transport budget by £1.2 million despite enlisting Edge to cut costs.

“Labour were culpable for the diabolical delivery of the service being more intent on political ideology than putting children first,” he said.

“This is an incredible outcome that takes more money away from helping vulnerable children and families.

The Argus: Brighton and Hove City Council education chief Councillor John AllcockBrighton and Hove City Council education chief Councillor John Allcock

“When Uber didn’t deliver on the contract for the bike share scheme, Labour let them keep £30,000 rather than fight for it back. Labour cannot be trusted with agreeing contracts.

“Whilst it pleads poverty and puts up council tax, it throws away £210,000 on just two contracts and overspends a £2.4 million budget.”

Meanwhile another Freedom of Information request shows Edge was the only company to submit a “compliant bid” for the £499,000 school transport contract. This means the city council effectively had a choice of one company when deciding who to award the contract to.

Council education chief Councillor John Allcock said Edge’s contract will not be put out to tender again.

“The council has four-year contracts with its transport providers which have more than three years left to run,” he said.

“The council will not be retendering the contact given to Edge. Cllr Wares has been provided with a copy of the exit agreement with Edge and is aware that under that commercial settlement the council avoided a £75,000 exit fee for ending the contract early.

The Argus: The city council will not re-tender the contract it awarded EdgeThe city council will not re-tender the contract it awarded Edge

“An independent review also highlighted the budget for home to school transport service was significantly too small and savings targets were unrealistic.”

“Our focus continues to be to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our children and young people.”

Edge Public Solutions said in a statement it had a “good track record” in delivering “strategic changes”.

“Edge has worked in partnership with the council to retender the taxi market and set up an internal transport team giving the council greater control in this area,” he said.

“The city council is now moving on to the next stage of its change programme with its new team in place.”