Wales

Welsh traffic commissioner has no office in Wales after two years

Traffic Commissioner sign
Image caption The office for the Traffic Commissioner for Wales is based in Birmingham

The Traffic Commissioner for Wales, who has been in office for two years, is still based in England.

Nick Jones has not yet set-up an office in Wales, instead his office work is done from Birmingham.

When the role was created in 2016 the plan was to have an office based in Wales with three full-time bilingual support staff.

But one Assembly Member has told Wales Live the office was "not fit for purpose".

There are eight traffic commissioners in England, Wales and Scotland responsible for licensing and regulating bus and HGV operators and take action if they are found to break the rules or breach safety.

Previously Wales did not have a dedicated commissioner and was instead covered along with the west Midlands by Mr Jones.

Then in 2016 the Welsh Government gave £210,000 funding so Wales could have its own traffic commissioner - a role jointly funded by the UK Government.

Announcing the Traffic Commissioner in 2016 Economy Secretary Ken Skates said: "Having a full-time Commissioner based in Wales and, in due course, bilingual support staff also based in Wales, as opposed to Birmingham, means increased and more effective engagement with those who provide and maintain our transport networks here in Wales."

Image copyright Office of the Traffic Commissioner
Image caption Nick Jones was Traffic Commissioner for Wales and the west Midlands before being appointed to the new job

But Mr Jones, who is paid £97,354 a year, has admitted he has struggled to establish an office in Wales, first looking in Cardiff, then Bangor.

However, this week Wales Live was told an office was now being assessed in Caernarfon although nothing had been signed and no staff recruited.

Lee Waters Labour AM for Llanelli said: "We thought at last we have got this cracked a commitment to have the transport traffic commissioner based in Wales but it is little more than a fig leaf.

"The current occupant Nick Jones comes across as a nice chap but really has no clue about the environment he's operating in, he doesn't understand devolution, he can't seem to recruit staff, he doesn't feel the need to move beyond Birmingham.

"I really don't think this office is fit for purpose."

A spokesman for Mr Jones said he didn't recruit people directly, but that this was the responsibility of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

They added he was working with the Welsh Government on finding an appropriate office and it was "a key priority", with recruitment due to start once the office was found.

He added all of Mr Jones' regulatory hearings as well as industry seminars and workshops are held in Wales, and said he has been "a champion of Welsh Language compliance" as well as understanding devolution.

Mr Jones is due to stand-down next year after 21 years as a traffic commissioner.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "We have worked closely with Traffic Commissioner Nick Jones over the past two years and fully support his ability to undertake his duties in Wales, as well as his understanding of devolution combined with his understanding and valued support of the Welsh language and its culture.

Image caption Lee Waters has said the office is "not fit for purpose"

"He is very well aware of the importance of bilingual working, which is why he is looking to set up suitable offices in the Caernarfon area, where there is a high concentration of Welsh speakers."

In 2017/18 the Traffic Commissioner for Wales dealt with 66 HGV operator public inquiries for non-compliance, 24 bus or coach operator public inquiries for non-compliance, and 112 public inquiries including licence application and bus punctuality cases.

* More on Wales Live, BBC One Wales 10.35pm tonight

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