Percys Travels

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Percys Travels's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Percys Travels is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Ms Parsan “Percy” Patti
Specialist transport
Founded in 1998 by Ms Parsan “Percy” Patti, Percy’s Travel
provides specialised school and activity transport services for
vulnerable children and young people with high-level special
needs and disabilities. Moreover, under its “Venture” brand, the
company also organises transport and tourism programmes for
corporates and individuals, as well as taking on the management
and delivery of transport for events. Having started the business
as a single mother, using her own car, Percy has grown it into a
trusted and well-established organisation with annual revenues
of around £500,000 – an achievement all the more impressive
in such a notoriously male-dominated industry, and in a field
where high levels of regulation form significant barriers to entry.
A business with a strong social ethos
Percy’s Travel was born out of necessity. After separation from my husband with
two infant children to raise, I had to find a way to earn a living. Yet, although it’s
always been run as a business, Percy’s Travel is a company with a strong social
ethos – providing a valuable and much-overlooked service to our community,
particularly to the young, vulnerable and often severely disabled people whom we
transport. Customer service in its most critical sense has always been at the very
heart of what we do and we apply the same ethos to our corporate work.
It’s not just the passengers entrusted into our care whose lives we help to improve.
From my background in youth and community work I’ve seen first-hand the
transformative impact that employment can have in improving people’s confidence,
»Director: Ms Parsan “Percy”
»Established in 1998
»Based: Oxford
»Services: Provider of special
needs school transport and
luxury corporate/tourist travel
»No. of employees: 14 part-
time and 2full-time
»Percy’s Travel knows of no
other passenger transport
company in England that was
founded by a woman
Percy’s Travel
Highlighting best practice
self-belief and self-worth. So, I’m
extremely proud that a significant
proportion of our staff have come
to work for us after periods of long-
term unemployment, many with
formerly debilitating phobias and
Our typical working schedule, with
short morning and afternoon shifts
based around school drop-off and
collection times, is ideally suited to
part-time working. This, combined
with the type of work we offer (drivers
and passenger assistants), makes it an
ideal first step back into employment,
or a way for older people to obtain
much-needed additional income
and regular social interaction. This,
it’s worth re-emphasising, has had a
transformative impact on many lives.
Challenged by regulation
Of course, every business has its
challenges and passenger transport is
no exception: the burden of high levels
of regulation brings with it a squeeze
on profit margins. Recruitment
and staff retention are similarly
problematic, as drivers with the
requisite qualifications become scarcer.
Passenger transport is also a much-
overlooked part of the industry (of
15 companies featured in last year’s
Parliamentary Review
, not one was a
passenger transport business). This is
even more true of specialist services
like Percy’s Travel – despite our clients
being some of the most vulnerable
people in our society.
Of course, Brexit offers huge
opportunities for future governments
to remove some excessive and overly
complex EU regulation from our industry
– particularly for companies who only
operate within the UK. However, we
must also focus attention on the (often
unintended) consequences of our own
domestic legislation and the effect that
devolving many licensing decisions to
local government is having.
As a specific example, changes to the
licensing regime for private hire vehicles
has brought the specialist work of
Percy’s Travel, and companies like mine
across the country, under the same
licensing regime as general private hire
or Hackney Carriage companies. This
change introduced a requirement for our
drivers, working only on “county contract
services” with set daily routes, to sit a
private hire and Hackney Carriage driver’s
test, covering local route knowledge
completely irrelevant to their role and
offering no benefit whatsoever to
drivers, the county or, most importantly,
the children being transported.
This has created huge barriers to
the recruitment of part-time drivers,
who now need to go through tests
and certification relevant only to taxi
Percy’s team providing
wheelchair transport
We’ve had a
impact on
many lives
drivers, which requires levels of effort
hugely disproportionate to the role they
are performing or their level ofpay.
The impact is clear: in 2013, Percy’s
Travel undertook five months of
recruitment advertising, receiving 20
to 30 calls per week from prospective
drivers plus 51 email applications.
Ofover 500 applicants, the vast
majority were dissuaded from the job
when they discovered the need to
take the private hire knowledge test.
It’s an understandable decision as the
level of study required to pass the test
is disproportionate to the part-time
nature of the roles and the level of
income involved. Additionally, even if
they don’t have a reluctance to sit an
examination, they rightly see this test
is irrelevant for their role. The test and
resits also add significant unnecessary
cost and administrative burdens to
Our proposed solution is the introduction
of a specific “contract” badge which
allows drivers to operate on dedicated
routes only. These drivers would be
exempt from the private hire and
Hackney Carriage driver’s test and would
simply carry their route and route number
with them. Both the driver’s badge and
the plate on their vehicle could be used
to easily identify them, and badges could
be given an obvious colour marking,
designating them as “contract” only.
Having brought the issue to the
attention of ministers, we’ve achieved
a sympathetic response. Writing to us
when minister of state for business
and energy, Michael Fallon MP, quoted
directly from the DfT’s best practice
guidelines to make this point:
The Department [DfT] is aware
of circumstances where, as
a result of the repeal of the
PHV contract exemption, some
people who drive children on
School contracts are being
deterred from continuing to
do so, on account of overly
burdensome topographical
tests. Local authorities should
bear this in mind.”
– Sir Michael Fallon, MP
However, in spite of strong attempts
at changing the status quo, with
support also from our local MP, the
local council remains obstinate. As
licensing is now a devolved issue,
ministers are powerless to help, as
Patrick McLoughlin, when secretary of
state for transport, acknowledged in
his letter to us in July 2015:
Unfortunately, the Department
[for Transport] is unable to
intervene in such local licensing
issues but I appreciate your
concern that these policies are
inappropriate for the service [your
company] provides, and you
have rightly challenged them.”
– Sir Patrick McLoughlin, MP
I love the work we do, and will
continue to carry it out, but
cumbersome regulations are not
allowing us to do so with the sort
of flexibility we and our community
requires and are actively limiting
valuable employment opportunities for
people who desperately need them.
The only solution, I believe, is for
government to look again at the primary
legislation and seek urgentrevision.
are actively
Some of the Percy’s
Travel team

This article was sponsored by Percys Travels. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister