Companies found to be ‘fronting’ for former director
Meritrule Ltd and Classic Routemasters Ltd, both of Waterhouse Lane, Tadworth, have had their O-licences revoked by Sarah Bell, Traffic Commissioner for London and South East England.
Classic Routemasters Ltd (CRM) had a licence for six vehicles, which it had held since 27 July 2016.
As a pre-condition of the license being granted, CRM agreed to lodge proof of financial standing with the Central Licensing Office in Leeds by 31 January 2017.
This never arrived, but correspondence was received from the Director, Melanie Zetterlund, requesting a voluntary reduction from six to four vehicles on the licence.
Subsequently, she made an online application to add an additional operating centre, which was suspended in light of the ongoing issues.
On 21 January, CRM nominated Mark Warren as its new Transport Manager; prior to that, no notice of the previous manager’s resignation was received.
Bank statements were eventually received from CRM on 7 February 2018, but the monthly average was ‘insufficient for even one vehicle’.
At the same time, it was noted that Mark Warren was already Transport Manager at Meritrule Ltd, which had the same operating centre address which CRM had attempted to add to its licence. As a result, CRM was called to public inquiry.
Ultimately, it was concluded that Meritrule and CRM were ‘fronting’ for Paul Jones, who had previously been on the TC’s radar following the 2015 case of Black Velvet/Western Greyhound.
Paul Jones pleaded guilty in August 2014 to spending counterfeit £20 notes and was sentenced to 16 months in prison. As a result, if he chose to obtain an O-licence in future he would be subject to ‘scrutiny’ by the TC.
Mark Warren became Transport Manager of Meritrule in September 2017: “It was only later that Mr Warren found out Paul Jones ‘intended’ a brokerage business and his mother (Jane Jones) was the Director of Meritrule Limited – the operator for which he would be the Transport Manager.
“He was told that Meritrule Limited had not had a Transport Manager for a long time, as it had effectively been dormant. Mr Warren signed the TM1 form at the same time as Mrs Jones and Mr Warren sent the paperwork to the Central Licensing Office (CLO) in Leeds.
“He was expecting Meritrule Limited to commence trading again and was signed-up as full-time from approximately September 2017. However, it transpired that there was actually nothing to do because the operator did not have any vehicles.”
As a result of his actions – acting as a transport manager ‘in name only’ to legitimise the two operators – Mark was disqualified from the role for three years.
Jane Jones and Melanie Zetterlund have also been disqualified, the former for 10 years and the latter for three.
The TC concluded: “Mr Jones has chosen not to apply for an O-licence in his own right. Mr Jones has endeavoured to use a brokerage to suggest transparency and lawful conduct. However, that is not the conclusion the evidence leads me to.
“Any operator found to be ‘fronting’, particularly where that fronting is for an individual who may be in difficulties obtaining a licence, should not be surprised when robust action is taken.
“On my findings, Mr Jones is a de facto and shadow director. He was not called on that basis and therefore I have not made a formal disqualification order.
“However, if he applies for an O-licence in the future, I again make it clear that that must be considered by a Traffic Commissioner or Deputy and not under any delegated authority.
“Further, he will need to address all the concerns which are set out in this written as part of that process.”