Conservative Party donor and former candidate won multi-million contracts for HGV Skills Bootcamps

Labour has called for ‘full transparency’ after NationalWorld revealed two firms which won lucrative contracts have links to the Conservatives

Two of the companies that have won multi-million pound contracts to provide HGV skills training in England have links to the Conservative Party.

A firm run by a former Conservative council candidate won a £6m HGV training contract.

The president of a company which picked up a £2.4m contract recently donated £10,500 to the party and has previously donated directly to the current Secretary of State at the department responsible for the scheme.

Labour has said the Government should be focusing on fixing the supply chain crisis, “not handing out more public money to their donors and cronies”.

What are HGV Skills Bootcamps?

Last year, the Government announced an initiative to train more HGV drivers on a fast-track basis, amid a supply chain crisis which was causing shortages of various goods.

The Government initially announced a £10m fund for HGV Skills Bootcamps in September, but later added an additional £24m, taking the total to £34m in order to train “up to 11,000” HGV drivers.

Skills bootcamps are a way for working age people to access intensive training courses which last up to 16 weeks, geared specifically toward helping them find a new job, or advance within their existing role.

The contracts to provide training all began on 6 December, according to tender documents, while a government press release published on 10 December said the courses were “under way across the country”.

It added that more than 2,000 people had already “expressed an interest in signing up” and that the first drivers were expected to be on the road from March 2022.

According to the most recent data, of the 2,800 people that enrolled on any type of skills bootcamp between September 2020 and March 2021, it led to ‘no change’ for 1,600 people - meaning they did not secure a new job or increased responsibilities at an existing role.

Among the 2,210 people who completed courses, just over half (54%) went on to achieve a successful outcome, such as securing a new job, or an apprenticeship.

The DfE declined to comment on how many people have enrolled on the HGV Skills Bootcamps or how many additional HGV drivers are now on the road as a result of the initiative.

A DfE spokesperson told NationalWorld they could not share any information about how the scheme has progressed, or whether any drivers who trained through the scheme are now on the road.

However, several of the firms involved with the scheme have reported significant interest, with demand for places well beyond capacity in some areas.

Innovative Alliance, which won a small contract as part of the scheme, reported in late January that “over 100 individuals have completed or signed up to the course to date”.

Qube Learning has filled all 800 funded places and the firm has said it will push the Government to extend the scheme with more funding.

Which firms won contracts through the scheme?

The largest single contract associated with the programme, worth £6.4m, went to HGV Training Services Ltd.

The firm reported in March that it had received 8,300 applications to the skills bootcamps.

NationalWorld can reveal that the firm’s sole director Gary Benardout has long standing links with the Conservative Party.

Mr Benardout stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative council candidate in Highgate in 2006, and again in Belsize in 2009.

HGV Training Services is also one of five firms to have won a contract with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) worth a total £27m, for “future licence acquisition training,” and was the sole beneficiary of a £400k MOD contract to provide driver training services to British forces in Cyprus.

In total, 21 contracts have been awarded to firms to deliver HGV Skills Bootcamps, with five of those won by further education colleges.

West Midlands-based recruitment and training firm Pertemps Recruitment Partnership won a contract worth over £2.4m.

The Pertemps group has won approximately 35 other government contracts since 2015, to provide training services and staff to various public sector bodies and government departments including the Ministry of Justice and Department for Work and Pensions.

President of the Pertemps group, Timothy Watts, is a regular donor to the Conservative Party, most recently donating £10,500 to Saqib Bhatti, Conservative MP for Meriden, in the West Midlands, on 2 March 2022.

He has previously donated £2,000 in April 2021 and £7,000 in January 2020 to Mr Bhatti, £2,000 in 2015 to Stratford-upon-Avon MP, Nadhim Zahawi, and £2,000 in 2007 to then Meriden MP, Caroline Spelman.

Mr Zahawi is the current Secretary of State at the Department for Education, which is the primary department responsible for administering the HGV Skills Bootcamps scheme.

Shadow minister for the Cabinet Office Angela Rayner told NationalWorld: "At this point it might be quicker to list the Tory donors who haven’t been awarded contracts with taxpayers’ cash.

"Given the sheer scale of cronyism and sleaze we have seen from this Government, there needs to be full transparency on how these contracts were doled out, whether Ministers were involved and whether they have properly declared their interests.

"The supply chain crisis was created by this Government, and they should be focusing on fixing it, not handing out more public money to their donors and cronies."

NationalWorld approached the following organisations for comment on this article, but received no response.

  • The Department for Education
  • HGV Training Services Ltd
  • Pertemps Recruitment Partnership