International Women’s Day 2018 – Celebrating Women in Community Transport

Christine Boston

Today (Thursday 8th March), people around the world will be joining together to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women as part of International Women’s Day 2018.  In a year that marks 100 years of women’s suffrage in the UK, it seems pertinent that this year’s theme is #Pressforprogress which is a call for men and women everywhere to press forward and progress women’s parity.

In the transport sector overall, this message is particularly important.  Considering women first entered the transport sector over 100 years ago, during the First World War, it is surprising that they account for just 22% of the transport sector in the UK.  Back in the early 1900’s when men were being called up to fight for their country, some 100,000 women joined the transport industry to deliver tube, bus, rail and tram services.  Women kept those services running and Britain moving during that time.

Despite women entering the transport industry for the first time in 1914, it still took until 1974 for Transport for London to appoint their first female bus driver and only recently, in 2015, a woman won UK Bus Driver of the Year at the UK Bus Awards for the first time.

In community transport, it’s a different story which is not surprising given that women are particularly likely to be involved in activities that have a community benefit.  We are immensely proud of the many women in the sector who work tirelessly to ensure services are delivered for those who need them the most.  Across the sector, women carry out a wide range of roles such as volunteer driver, mechanic, transport manager and more, ensuring that each day, across the UK transport can be accessible and inclusive.

There are still plenty of opportunities for more women to join us in helping to keep people moving regardless of any barriers they might face in accessing transport services so if you are interested to get involved with any aspect of community transport, just look up your local operator and find out what opportunities are available.

Finally, we just want to say THANK YOU to all the amazing and inspirational women in community transport who go that extra mile each day to ensure people can make those extremely important journeys which allow so many individuals to remain independent and enjoy a decent quality of life.

Supporting you to respond to the Department for Transport Consultation

 

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On behalf of the Policy Committee Steering Group.

Chaired by Peter Hardy, CTA Trustee.

CTA’s Policy Committee is made up of members from across the UK. It met yesterday with senior managers of the CTA to discuss the Department for Transport consultation on the use of Section 19 and 22 Permits for road passenger transport in Great Britain.

The Committee share the deep concerns felt across our sector about how unclear and unworkable many of the proposed reforms are and are committed to finding a way through that leaves community transport in good shape.

They appreciated the questions, feedback and ideas we’ve had so far and we would like you to help with one more thing in the next few days.

We are close to completion in producing guidance to help you with your responses, which we will release soon. Before then, we wanted to check if there are any specific types of information you need or questions you have that will help with your own responses and participate in the events the DfT is running, if you are able to attend one.

We would like you to consider the following questions and respond to us by 14th March 2018.

After reading the consultation:

1) What are your top three concerns about the proposed reforms for your organisation and your service users?

2) What information and guidance do you need to assist with your response?

3) What questions do you have that you feel the consultation doesn’t answer or address well enough?

Thank you for taking the time to respond. Please send your responses to hello@ctauk.org

 

‘Has the Government sided with the bus barons?’, ask Co-operative MPs

Ben West

In a debate on Tuesday, Co-operative Party MPs called on the government to give not-for-profit community transport the recognition it deserves, and to do more to safeguard such routes from disastrous regulatory changes being promoted by commercial firms.

As we reported back in January, MPs have warned that government plans could put hundreds of bus routes run by volunteer and community groups at risk.

Yesterday, Transport Minister Jo Johnson was in Parliament to be questioned by MPs on his Department’s spending estimates and priorities for the coming year. Amid a host of questions relating to HS2, the ongoing rail franchising fiasco and airport expansion, Labour & Co-operative MPs took the opportunity to take the Government to task for its neglect of hundreds of vital routes run by community groups across the country, and policy changes seemingly driven by the interests of large commercial operators.

Co-operative Party Chair Gareth Thomas MP began by echoing an earlier warning by one of the Government’s own MPs that the community transport sector faces a ‘devastating impact’ as a result of upcoming changes in regulation. The new rules will see volunteer-run enterprises subjected to the same costly standards as multi-national commercial operators.

Gareth then went on to highlight the Co-operative Party’s long-running People’s Bus campaign, which calls for significant expansion of the not-for-profit bus sector, and for for an extension of existing rights to give local people the right to designate bus routes as ‘community assets’, protecting them from closure.

With hundreds of community routes across the country – many serving marginalised groups or areas where commercial services have been withdrawn, it’s unsurprising that these concerns are shared even on the Government’s own benches.

East Yorkshire Conservative MP Greg Knight said that “community transport is very important, particularly to people in rural areas.”, while Chesham and Amersham MP Dame Cheryl Gillan noted that community transport operators in her own constituency had been in touch with her with concerns about the upcoming changes.

Continuing his speech, Gareth Thomas highlighted the impact that “uncertainty arising from the Government’s announcement” has had on the sector, which he said had already contributed to the closure of Enfield Community Transport, a charity-run operator near to his constituency.

Without a change in policy, he said, Harrow Community Transport which serves his own constituency “is very worried as to whether or not it will be able to survive if more of its drivers are required to undergo expensive and lengthy training of the sort that commercial bus and coach companies have to provide.”

But perhaps even more significantly, it fell to Gareth and other Co-operative MPs to make the wider point at the centre of our Peoples’ Bus Campaign: that public transport isn’t a commodity to be run for profit, but a service vital to the health, independence of thousands of people, including many of the most vulnerable:

“Tens of thousands of people across the UK are reliant on community transport services for some of the most socially necessary journeys that have to be made. Many of the people who use community transport are among the most vulnerable in our communities, so the Government’s announcement that they were seeking to change the regulation under which the sector has been operating was met with shock.”

Labour & Co-operative MP Sir Mark Hendrick added that community transport included,

“door-to-door transport, informal lift-giving by volunteer car drivers, Dial-a-Ride and Dial-a-Bus, particularly for people with disabilities and mobility difficulties, and groups such as the elderly and others who struggle to get out and about. This transport is required, for example, to take them on shopping trips.”

Every day, community transport operators keep hundreds of vital bus routes across the country open, often with the help of volunteers, serving communities and people who would otherwise face isolation. As yesterday’s debate makes clear, MPs of all parties value the contribution these services make to their constituencies, and the sector as a whole enjoys broad support.

So why is the government so intent on sabotaging community transport and bringing so many of these services to their knees?

As so often, the answer seems to be a Government in hock to powerful interests and ideologically committed to private-profit-at-all-costs, as Gareth Thomas revealed:

I understand that just one small group of commercial bus operators, led by one individual, which wants to cherry-pick community transport contracts provided by local authorities and the NHS, and which does not put anything back into the local area, has somehow managed to persuade Ministers that new rules are needed to interpret EU regulations affecting the drivers and licensing of community transport.

If that’s the case, we’re on to them. It’s time for ministers to think again.

This post was originally published on the Co-operative Party website which you can find here.

UPDATE: New dates announced for the Department for Transport consultation events

New dates and locations for the Department for Transport’s consultation events have been announced and CTA has been asked to share them with its members.

There are now also events being held in Exeter (5th April),  Edinburgh (16th April)  Leeds (25th April) and Manchester (30th April)

Please see below a message supplied to CTA by the the Department for Transport , including the updated dates:

Department for Transport officials are keen to meet with CTA members at a series of events across England, Scotland and Wales as part of the Department’s consultation on the issue and use of section 19 and 22 permits under the Transport Act 1985. The purpose of these events will be to explain the consultation policy proposals and answer questions, though officials will not be able to provide legal advice. The events will consist of a presentation and a question and answer session spread over a two-hour session.

Exeter, 5th April: See details here.

Ipswich, 9th April,
Morning session: see details here.
Afternoon session: see details here.

Nottingham, 13th April
Morning session: see details here.
Afternoon session: see details here.

Edinburgh, 16th April
Morning session: see details here.
Afternoon session: see details here.

Pontypridd,  20th April
Morning session: see details here.
Afternoon session: see details here.

Leeds, 25th April
Morning session: see details here.
Afternoon session: see details here.

London, 27th April
Morning session: see details here.
Afternoon session: see details here.

Additional London Session 01 May: see details here

Manchester, 30th April
Morning session: see details here.
Afternoon session: see details here.

Please note: these events are being run by the Department for Transport. If you have any questions please contact buses@dft.gsi.gov.uk

 

Community Transport in UK Snow

Britain is braced for its third day of freezing temperatures and heavy snow as the ‘Beast from the East’ cold spell tightens its grip. Heavy snow showers began overnight and are expected to last up until mid-morning hitting most of the UK the Met Office said, issuing an amber warning.This will bring up to 15cm of snow, which is likely to cause vehicles to become stranded and cause delays to the road, rail and air travel.

Community Transport is a vital service for our communities’ most vulnerable residents, who are often unable to access or use public transport. We have been warmed by the great pictures online of your services being kept open or continuing to offer support and advice to your passengers.

We know your focus is on service delivery and your passengers but please share your photos and stories with us hello@ctauk.org or on twitter @CTAUK1

Introducing CTA’s new Director for Scotland

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This week I am pleased to be welcoming Derek Young, as our new Director to lead the Community Transport Association’s work in Scotland, and I am sure you are all going to enjoy working alongside him.

Derek’s previous positions have seen him leading Policy work within the British Red Cross and Age Scotland. He is also a Policy Committee member of SCVO (Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations)  and brings a strong record of success of raising the profile of isolation and loneliness across Scotland.

Although he only started his position with us on Monday, Derek has already written an article for the next issue of Together, our quarterly membership journal, which will be sent out to members across the UK on 9th March.

 In the meantime, here is an extract from the article about why CT matters to him:

 “I live in the village of Kirkliston, to the west of Edinburgh, with my wife and two young daughters. It is a community which is poorly served by scheduled commercial services and the local library has a vital library link service, so the relevance of CT is something I can see on my doorstep. The services I have seen are truly inspirational for the difference they make to people’s lives. They go out in all weathers and in early mornings to ensure that the people who rely on community transport can access the services they need; and that they have a friendly and familiar face when that’s really needed. I look forward to meeting and working with you all”.

 I’m sure you will all join with me in welcoming Derek to CTA.

Finding love on a community transport minibus – Kathy and Ray’s story.

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This post was originally published on CTLA’s Facebook page which you can find here. 

Whilst Valentine’s Day is generally accepted as a ‘couples day’, others have embraced it as an opportunity to celebrate friendships or love for their children, or even do random acts of kindness for strangers.

For those who have experienced the death of a spouse or partner, it can be a cruel reminder of what is missing – a soul-mate, a friend and companion – who may have been around for many years and bought many valentines cards and gifts.

Kathy Mears and Ray Browning felt this sense of loss and grief when their spouses were both taken by illness – having been married for over 50 years. Kathy (82) said she was ‘happy but not very social and outgoing’, whereas Ray (86) cannot do a quick shop as so many people who know him want to stop to ‘chew the fat’.

Award winning charity, CTLA Community Transport, exists to reduce isolation and loneliness and improve health and well-being – with their travel club bringing together people of all ages, especially those who may be alone, for friendship and social inclusion.

Three years ago, encouraged by friends, Kathy signed up for free membership and the door-to-door accessible minibus soon became a familiar sight in her street in Peacehaven.

She remembers the first time Ray caught her eye, on a trip to a local pub for an organ recital and a meal – they exchanged a few pleasantries and she recalls getting back onto the minibus in the twilight, with Ray cheekily saying to her “hey, you look better in the dark!”

Kathy looked out for Ray on the trips from then onwards, and noticing her growing feelings for him, her friend June encouraged her to give Ray her telephone number. Kathy says she told June that the old-fashioned way was for the ‘gentleman to ask the lady’. June obviously pooh-poohed that idea as she wrote down Kathy’s number and instructed Ray to ‘give her a ring sometime’.

The rest, as they say, is history. Kathy, Ray and their friends still go out on CTLA Travel Club trips and Ray has bought Kathy a beautiful eternity ring. They spent last Christmas together and enjoy nothing better than curling up on the sofa together to do the crosswords.

Kathy has advice for anyone who may find themselves alone, as she did. “Don’t sit indoors looking at the walls – it’s the worst thing you can do. Before the Travel Club and meeting Ray, I would sit and think more about my problems – since we’ve been together – and I go out around twice a week with CTLA – my mental health and wellbeing is much improved – and my social life has never been busier!”

For more details on the CTLA Travel Club, go to www.ctla.org.uk or call 01273 517332.

UK Government launch consultation on the use of section 19/22 permits

 

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On Thursday 08th February, the UK Government launched its much awaited consultation on the use of section 19 and 22 permits. This sets out how it intends to change its guidance following its reinterpretation of how the EU regulations (1071/2009) on passenger service vehicle (PSV) operators should be applied in England, Wales and Scotland.

You can access the consultation here.

For our members in Northern Ireland, who have already been through the unsettlement of a similar consultation process, this consultation offers some hope that guidance does not need to be as onerous as that which has been proposed by their government. CTA will be working to ensure that this matter is re-examined in Northern Ireland.

Our team are going through the consultation document now and once we have a more in-depth analysis next week we will share it with members, but here are my initial thoughts:

We’ve known this was coming for over six months and there will be mixed feelings amongst our membership about the launch. We know some of you will be relieved it’s finally underway, as the uncertainty has been as debilitating for your organisations as the actual proposed changes. Others will feel uncomfortable engaging in a discussion about reforms they disagree with. There are also some members who think the best thing they can do is to make the changes and see what opportunities this presents. We know the people who have waged this campaign against the CT sector are clearly spooked by the prospect of you having the same licenses as them, so there may be some benefits which we need to explore as a sector.

Whatever your viewpoint, the consultation is now here and we need to work together on it like we did on the Transport Select Committee Inquiry in the autumn. This was a great example of our sector working collaboratively, with most of the 300 responses supporting our sector and a third of these being based on CTA’s template and guidance. It is important that we do the same again.

To this end, in the next month I am prioritising getting out to the different forums we have through which CTA members’ views are represented, so we can test and refine ideas before we issue guidance to support your responses.

  • Our Scotland Committee will meet next Tuesday, 13th February.
  • Our Wales Committee will meet on 27th February.
  • We are arranging a meeting of our Policy Committee, which has members from across the UK, to take place in the next four weeks.

I know the Department for Transport intends to run its own events, and my Country Director colleagues are working with their devolved national governments to see what they can do, so we don’t intend to duplicate this work. However, I am open to invitations to other forums where groups of our members will be gathering and I will reach out to Mobility Matters to see if they would like to join in anything we are planning.

I should also let you know that we will be working with other voluntary sector umbrella bodies, such as NCVO, to ensure other parts of Government and the voluntary sector are alert to the risks to community transport and the people who rely on our services. We’re also bringing together national charities, like Age UK, who have local branches that run transport to see what we can achieve through our respective networks in Westminster.

I’ve set out some of the early stages of what we’ll do in the next 12 weeks and we will have more to say once we’ve analysed the document in greater depth.

However, please don’t hesitate to contact us with your initial thoughts on what is being said or asked in the document. You can email us via hello@ctauk.org

Sharing stories in 2017

At CTA we always talk about the importance of promoting the incredible work that our members do every day, in almost every community across the country. One of the main ways that we publicise the work of our members is through our blog. Since it’s inception two years ago, it’s received hundreds of thousands of views, has been referenced by MPs in Parliament and has provided a platform to share the stories of our over 1,600 members.

Members from all four corners of the UK have used the blog to share the work they do and, in a recent article in Together, we shared some of the many highlights from 2017.

You can view the article here. 

Community Transport raised at Transport Questions

At a recent Transport Questions (18th January) MPs asked Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Jesse Norman, a number of questions on the future of community transport, specifically looking at the impact of the ongoing discussions around the future of section 19/22 permits and driver licencing.

You can find below a transcript of the questions and the Minister’s responses.


Neil Gray MP | SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts

“What progress he has made on his proposals to change the licensing of community transport?”

Jesse Norman’s Response:

“The government wants to protect as many community transport services as possible, we will soon be consulting on the issue and said use of permits and have been working to interpret the scope of the exemption to the regulations as widely as the law will allow.”

Neil Gray MP:

“I thank the minister for the answer, of course he will be aware that the estimation is that this proposal will cost the industry £37 million and each driver £1500, it rather seems that the Government is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. So what does the Minister say to Shotts Getting Better Together, in my constituency, which provide absolutely essential community transport services, have no interest in being a commercial entity and could be lost to the community under these plans?”

Jesse Norman’s Response:

“Well, I must say, I don’t recognise the description the gentleman gives at all. I have been up and down the country talking to community transport schemes and actually it is not at all clear that the implication for local community transport operators would be anything as like as severe as has been suggested, and in the one case that’s been tested it’s been referred back for further evidence gathering.”

Robert Courts MP | Conservative MP for Witney 

“I am very grateful to the minister for having recently visited my constituency where he saw the great work being done by Our Bus Bartons Company; he will know of course that reassurance by such companies all over the country is urgently sought. Could the minister clarify whether any action that is proposed by the Transport Commissioner reflects upon the consultation that is taking place, or whether the consultation will be taking place in any event?”

Jesse Norman’s Response: 

“The consultation will be taking place in any event. And the details will be announced shortly. I must say I greatly enjoyed my visit to see the Our Bus group, I thought they were a model of good practice in local community transport.”

Richard Burden MP | Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield 

“Whilst I understand that the Government has said it is not going to end the section 19 and 22 arrangements, the letter they sent out in July of last year has caused, what the Transport Select Committee have said is paralysis in the not-for-profit sector. Don’t we now need some clarity from the Government about what it is intending to do, so that it can demonstrate some real support for the community transport sector, including firms like Shencare in my constituency?”

Jesse Norman’s Response: 

“Let me say in that regard, he will have seen the, I’m sure he’s been noting carefully, the Transport Select Committee, the testimony that I and one of my officials gave which actually put to rest the question of whether or not the letter was inappropriate or had caused difficulty. There certainly has been concern, rightly so, it’s a reinterpretation of the law, some people may not be compliant, that is true, but the vast majority will be, and we expect the consultation to be successful in further allaying concerns.”

Norman Lamb MP | Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk 

“North Norfolk Community Transport say that they’re unable at the moment to get new section 19 permits because they bid for some of their services competitively, but those services are cross-subsidising vital community services, and they’re doing exactly what the county council urged them to do. Can the minister give some reassurance urgently, because these vital services could go under unless that uncertainty ends?”

Jesse Norman’s Response:

“What I would say to that is, that the Traffic Commissioners are acting very speedily and effectively and as a unified group on this issue and I expect the consultation to continue to give, through the proposed exemptions and work arounds that we’ve been looking at, further comfort to the sector.”


Since the Department for Transport’s letter landed, our members across the country have been reaching out to their MPs and making their voices heard. If you would like to contact your MP but are unsure who they are, you can find their contact details here.

As ever, if you have any questions about this issue you can contact CTA via hello@ctauk.org. CTA will be in touch with members and supporters with information and guidance when the Department’s consultation is published.