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Garages probed over MOT ‘backhanders’ claims

Garages probed over MOT ‘backhanders’ claims

🕔18.Sep 2012

Claims that garages are taking “backhanders” to issue MOT certificates to un-roadworthy taxis and private hire cabs have been investigated by Birmingham trading standards officers.

City council head of licensing Chris Neville confirmed a number of allegations levelled by disgruntled drivers who said they were asked for illegal payments of up to £30 in cash on top of the £64 charge for an MOT inspection and certificate.

It was not possible to obtain sufficient evidence for a prosecution although it was clear from subsequent inspections that some vehicles were being granted certificates when they should not have been, Mr Neville told a scrutiny committee.

Five garages have a £1.8 million contract to carry out MOT tests on 7,000 taxis and private hire cabs.

Under the terms of the agreement, drivers are free to choose which garage they use.

Mr Neville admitted that one of the five garages, which took a “more stringent” view of testing, did not receive much business from the taxi drivers.

The council is re-tendering the contract and may give the work to one garage in future.

Mr Neville said licensing officials had been made aware of “a variety of unsubstantiated allegations of corrupt behaviour by employees of some garages”.

He added: “Drivers and even a former employee have told officers about this behaviour, but have not been willing to sign a witness statement to stand by their allegation

“The garages vehemently deny any wrongdoing.”.

The garages were sometimes awarding MOTs to vehicles that did not meet the council’s strict suitability rules about seating requirements and size, Mr Neville told the committee.

Mr Neville added: “We have explained to the garages in no uncertain terms how important it is they do their jobs properly.”

More than 20 garages are bidding for the new contract.

The council used to carry out MOT inspections in-house, but decided the expense of maintaining a garage and staff was too much.

One Labour councillor wants the work to be brought back under direct council control.

Mike Leddy (Brandwood) said: “Think of the number of jobs and apprenticeships we could create.”

 

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