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Seatbelt campaigner quits charity and claims thousands.

Byline: By MARTIN SHIPTON Western Mail

A bitter dispute has torn apart an organisation set up to campaign for better safety on school buses. Busk (Belt Up School Kids) was founded 12 years ago in Usk by Pat Harris after her young son was injured in an accident while travelling in a bus that was not fitted with seatbelts.

Since then Mrs Harris has made a national name for herself through her high-profile campaigning.

But now she has parted company with the Busk charity and set up a private company with the same name.

It is understood that earlier this year Mrs Harris and the charity settled out of court an Employment Tribunal action she was bringing for constructive dismissal.

In the pending court case, it is understood that Mrs Harris is claiming several thousand pounds she says she is owed by the charity, while the charity is making a counter-claim against her.

Mrs Harris's claim is understood to relate to work she says she did in connection with a safety event held at Aston Villa FC last year.

Last night Mrs Harris, who runs the Busk company from her home in Newport, said, 'I can confirm that I am no longer associated with the Busk charity. On the advice of my solicitor I am making no further comment before the conclusion of a forthcoming civil court case.'

A statement sent to the Western Mail on behalf of the charity's trustees said, 'The trustees and national committee members of Busk wish to formally give notice of the following facts regarding the charity Busk.

'Pat Harris left the charity on January 31, 2005, after a dispute with the trustees.

'From this date, Mrs Harris has not been involved with Busk the charity.

'However, it has come to the notice of the trustees that, on November 10, 2004 and without notification to the trustees of the charity Busk, a limited company was formed in the name of Busk Ltd, of which Mrs Harris is a director.

'The trustees of Busk charity wish it to be placed on record that Busk Ltd is not a registered charity and has no connection whatsoever with Busk the charity.'

Busk has received widespread support for its aims, which include;

Ensuring safe and correct installation of safety belts in coaches and minibus

Ending the 'three for two rule' which allows vehicles to be legally overcrowded with up to 50% extra pupils than the seating capacity

Ensuring that all pupils are properly supervised by a responsible adult while in transit and when boarding and alighting vehicles

Pressing for public access to Vehicle Inspectorate records of transport companies who have been served prohibition notices for having dangerous vehicles on the road

Working towards a dedicated school transport system in the United Kingdom with vehicles specifically designed for children and young people that meet Busk's standards

Working towards a School Transport Act to ensure universal safety standards for all children.

Busk has been regularly consulted on all aspects of transport safety by schools, local authorities, lawyers involved in litigation following injury on school transport, traffic police, the medical profession, transport operators and national safety organisations.

Busk drew up a suggested Code of Good Practice for Education Authorities in 1995 and since then, many LEAs have adopted it or used it as a guide to produce their own.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 10, 2005
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