BUS operators have been fined while collecting and dropping off children outside the borough’s schools.

Firms, including Cooks Coaches and Compass Travel, have complained to Southend Council they are being unfairly targeted by the borough’s spy car while dropping off children as safely as possible.

Chris Thompson, owner of Compass Travel, based in Leigh, has lost an appeal against a £70 fine which has now risen to £105.

One of his drivers was fined after parking on the School Keep Clear markings, where there are zig zag lines, outside St Michael’s School, in Hadleigh Road, Leigh.

The drivers transport St Michael’s pupils to other schools and sports venues for PE lessons as they don’t have their own playing field.

Mr Thompson said: “Unrestricted areas for parking are a long way from the school.

“The parking spaces either side of the hatched areas are always full of residents, or there is no space for our 16-seat minibus.

“The only safe pick-up area is on the yellow hatchings.

“However, Southend Council thinks pupil safety does not come before revenue raising, and so we have been fined and lost our appeal.”

Mr Thompson has refused to pay the penalty issued on October 9 and the council has now threatened him with bailiffs.

His frustrations are also felt by Cooks Coaches, based in Westcliff.

It received three fines recently, but said the problem is not confined to St Michael’s School.

Owner Bill Cook said: “I don’t disagree with the restrictions, anything for safety, but some schools have no access due to road width, or traffic arrangements nearby.

“Our drivers have two options park and block the road while we wait up to half an hour for pupils, or park safely, but in a restricted area.

“Hadleigh Road and Prittlewell Chase for Chase High and Lancaster School are two problem areas. Where does the council expect us to park legally and safely?”

He added a parking fine meant some contracts were often not that profitable.

Mr Cook said: “Some jobs are worth £150 but if we lose £60 or £70 of that in a fine, they don’t pay. If it’s a parking warden we can sometimes explain, but often it’s the spy car that gets us before we even know about it.

“I don’t know the answer, but I do wonder if they can be more lenient. It needs some sort of sensible agreement.”

The council said it will review the markings at St Michael’s School to see if they could be decreased or resized, and suggested parking in loading areas marked by yellow lines. However, these are available at limited times.

Zulfiqar Ali, the council’s traffic manager, said: “School Keep Clear markings are placed on roads outside schools in order to ensure the safety of schoolchildren and parents.”

Stephen Tompkins, head teacher of St Michael’s School said: “The school is actively working with all parties to ensure the safety of our children and to uphold parking regulations.”