Transport Select Committee inquiry into licencing arrangements for community transport

This morning the Transport Committee in the UK Parliament launched an inquiry into the licencing arrangements for community transport in the light of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) 31 July letter on Section 19/22 permits and driver licencing.

Click here to find more information on the inquiry. 

Please note that this is not the DfT’s consultation, however it does provide an opportunity to look more broadly at many of the background issues that led to the proposed revision to guidance from DfT.

Here Bill Freeman, CTA’s Chief Executive, give’s his take on today’s announcement:

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We have a problem in this country that many MPs will be aware of, which is about the quality, availability and affordability of transport options for people that can’t drive and don’t have access to a conventional bus service, especially in rural areas.

Community transport is a uniquely British solution to that problem because it comes from the community and it involves people doing things for themselves and their neighbours. We believe there is a cross-party consensus on the value of community transport and we look forward to seeing this come to the fore in this inquiry that has been launched by the Transport Committee in the UK Parliament.

In this blog I am going to look at the five parts which make up the Inquiry’s terms of reference and offer some immediate observations.

The effectiveness of the DfT, DVSA and Traffic Commissioners’ guidance to, and regulation of, community transport

For three decades we have had a regulatory settlement in this country which has served us well in enabling community transport to deliver its services safely and legally using special permits, enjoying the confidence of regulators, commissioners, and operators and, most crucially, our passengers.

CTOs have worked in good faith to guidance throughout this time and there has been no change in the law on which this guidance is based. However we now find ourselves with a proposal to revise the guidance to include a different view of the law which breaks with that previously held consensus.

The grounds for making these changing are poorly understood within our sector and the wider policy community. Many are asking whether its worth all the upheaval to satisfy the European Commission and why this is based on a partisan view of the intended meaning of certain phrases that feel a long way from discussing the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.

My hope it that this Inquiry provides us with another chance to explain how we work and to consider why this change in guidance is going to be problematic. This should help shape everyone’s ideas prior to the DfT’s own consultation later in the autumn.

The effects on commercial operators

We don’t shy away from a conversation about a level-playing field, but so much of what we’ve seen from the nature and tone of threats and legal challenges in recent years suggests that some want to take community transport out of the game altogether.

Although we fill gaps left by mainstream services, our sector cannot survive and thrive if it is only allowed to do things that commercial companies say should be left to us because there is no money to be made. We accept there needs to be a better understanding of when there needs to be parity between different types of operators and also accept this cannot all be on our own terms, so let’s see what comes up in the Inquiry.

The potential effects in the short and longer term of different types of CTOs

This permit system and the vital services they enable were invented to meet the needs that bus companies can’t or won’t meet, so there are big questions and a lot of concerns about forcing these charities to lose their distinctiveness from bus companies. It is also very hard for me to see a great number who will benefit from these changes, but the cliff face for its potential losers is all too obvious.

We suspect we are talking about risks to the continuity of hundreds of charities that employ thousands of people and serve tens of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens that rely on community transport to have a decent quality of life and feel that they belong.

The safety, security and service quality implications of licensing via such permits

Our sector has always set high standards for itself and invested in this, which is why community transport isn’t always the cheapest option for getting a well-run service.

Nowhere in anything we have seen from the Department for Transport have they expressed concerns that the permit regime provides a lower level of protection for passengers.

There is no evidence that passengers are any less safe in a vehicle using one of these permits. They still have to comply with rules on road worthiness and maintenance and their drivers must be trained, Interestingly the most commonly used training for community transport, MiDAS, is better than the statutory requirements because it includes an on-road test which is assessed and people can fail if they can’t show how they reach the required standards.

Suggested approaches to the funding, commissioning and licensing of community transport

We especially welcome the committee’s focus on this. The focal point for challenges against community transport and these proposed changes has been what rules operators should follow when fulfilling local authority contracts.

Many CTOs fulfil local authority contracts, often awarded through competitive tendering. However, fulfilling these contracts is not a deviation from their core charitable purpose and they provide vital resources to enable so much more to happen in social value terms beyond the scope of the contract itself. It has much more to do changing fashions in how local government pays for things to happen, even when there is no obvious contestable market.

We want to see action to recognise and protect the distinctiveness of community transport services and the distinct social value they deliver. This requires a rethink on how transport services are commissioned to prioritise the creation of ‘social goods’ and reduce the reliance on procurement through tendering as a crude ‘one size fits all’ way of meeting more peoples’ needs.

More information about the inquiry can be found herehttp://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/transport-committee/news-parliament-2017/community-transport-launch-17-19/ 


We strongly encourage all community transport operators and those who support and care about what they do to get involved through submitting a response and working with us to strengthen our collective voice. If you are planning to respond and want to work alongside CTA on this, please email hello@ctauk.org

CTA receive funding for £1.1 million Connecting Communities in Wales project

Christine Boston

We’re pleased to announce that CTA has secured £1.1 million to deliver a new project in Wales that aims to develop community transport networks in rural areas and build the capacity of our sector.

The project is called ‘Connecting Communities in Wales’ and will be delivered through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the Welsh Government and European Union.

Over a period of five years, the project will bring together transport providers, facilitate partnerships and bring new initiatives to life.  This project provides a unique opportunity to raise the profile of community transport and build capacity across the sector to help operators realise their potential for the benefit of rural communities.

Working with a wide range of stakeholders, we hope to develop innovative solutions that will enhance the transport offer for many, connecting rural communities.

In particular, the project will:

  • Establish ‘Transport Innovation Networks’ in North and South Wales to foster collaboration and develop new transport solutions.
  • Identify local transport needs in rural communities and assess the capacity of community transport providers to develop new solutions that fill gaps in current provision.
  • Deliver professional training and further capacity building to ensure the community transport sector can readily adapt to changing needs and circumstances.

We are thrilled to have received approval to take this work forward and it will enable us to set up new schemes that will provide mobility and transport for those people who need it most.  Connecting Communities in Wales will allow us to help the most isolated communities to access local services, support and opportunities.

If you would like to get involved in this exciting project or find out more, please contact Christine@ctauk.org

 

 

Manchester Community Transport in talks to join HCT Group

HCT Group has announced today that it is in final-stage talks with Manchester Community Transport (MCT), with a view to MCT joining the Group. Both organisations are CTA members and work to provide accessible and inclusive transport in their communities.

HCT Group is one of the UK’s largest social enterprises and operates bus services and other transport contracts in London, Bristol, Yorkshire and the Channel Islands. It has over 1200 staff and a fleet of 625 vehicles. As a social enterprise, HCT Group reinvests the money it makes from those contracts back into community transport in the areas where it works.

Manchester Community Transport has been providing accessible and inclusive transport  in Manchester since 1980 and now provides community transport services across the Manchester area as well as Transport for Greater Manchester contracted bus services, and has 109 employees and 67 vehicles.

Chief Executive of HCT Group, Dai Powell, said “We are delighted to welcome a community transport provider of such renown into the Group. We believe that we can help MCT really achieve its potential, growing the organisation and increasing services.

“Making a positive social impact where we work is our reason for being, so a tie-up with a community transport provider that has its finger on the pulse of what’s needed in Manchester is great news.”

MCT have said that by joining HCT Group, they want to make their operations more financially sustainable over the long term, and safeguard the impact of the services they provide. They also want to be able to better access investment and the operational and business expertise of HCT Group.

Nigel McKinney, Managing Director of MCT said “By joining one of the largest and most successful social enterprises in the UK, we have the opportunity to expand our services and build on our track record of delivering for the community in Manchester. It makes sense for us to partner with a likeminded organisation such as HCT Group, who share our values and who are committed to improve transport for all.”

Talks for the merger are at an advanced stage and both organisations are confident an agreement will be reached in the near term. As the tie-up aims to support MCT with its plans for growth, it will see MCT maintain all of its current services, with no jobs under threat.

“Part of the Community it came from” |Bakewell and Eyam Community Transport

Bakewell and Eyam

Bakewell & Eyam Community Transport provides safe, flexible and accessible transport for the communities of the Derbyshire Dales & High Peaks.

Here at Bakewell & Eyam Community Transport, one of our loyal customers gifted us the money for a new community bus in their will. This gift is something we’re incredibly grateful for; we’re over the moon to have been so close to someone’s heart. We feel that this really shows just how important we are as a charity in the local community, and the affect we have on individual lives.

We want to do something special with this gift. Instead of having just another bus, exactly the same as the rest of our fleet, we want a bold, recognisable bus that is truly part of the community it has come from. We’ve turned to the children of the area we serve, asking them for their ideas.  What can we do with this great gift? We’ve not been disappointed!

Given the brief to represent their community in a bold and fun way, the children of six local schools have come up with some brilliant designs- we don’t know how we’re going to choose just one of them!

From rainbow buses, to church steeples, maypole dancing to sheep- we’re overwhelmed by all of the ideas and we can’t wait to get our new bus!

Once we’ve received all of our entries we’ll start the nigh on impossible task of choosing a winner. Using a panel of judges including trustees, users of the service and local artists, we’re going to choose one design to become a shining star of the community. I’m just glad I don’t have to decide the winner!

We want to say a huge thank you to all of the schools who are helping us along the way, and an especially huge thank you to all of the children who have shared their ideas with us!

Keep up to date with the progress of this new bus on Twitter , Facebook  and Instagram.

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#iwill

Emma Sims

You often tell us that, as your membership organisation, it’s important that we champion the work of community transport to wider society; that we increase public understanding of what community transport is, and how much it benefits our communities. Connecting with organisations that share our values of supporting and giving back to our communities in an accessible and inclusive way could be a big benefit to our sector.

You also tell us how challenging it can be to recruit and retain volunteers. We know, owing to the unique licensing arrangements of our sector many drivers passed their driving test prior to 1997; so encouraging a young demographic of volunteers could be a real asset to your organisations.

The work we do is shaped by the feedback you give us; so we’re always thinking about how we can address your concerns. Earlier this year we dedicated part of our Roadshow to recruiting and retaining volunteers and we’re continuing to work on responding to your feedback, so here’s our next step.

CTA recently pledged to the #iwill campaign, a national campaign run by the charity Step Up to Serve. The campaign aims to get 60% of young people involved in social action by 2020. This includes activities such as volunteering, fundraising and campaigning. The campaign recognises the double-benefit of young people being involved in social action; enhancing skills for young people themselves, and at the same time, strengthening their own communities. The #iwill campaign has over 700 partners who have pledged to help them achieve their target- and we’re excited to say that CTA is joining them!

You can click here to read our pledge.

Our pledge aims to tie together a recognition that many young people are isolated from the opportunities around them, with the incredible work your organisations are doing to create an understanding that young people and community transport can support each other.

This is an exciting project for CTA, but one that won’t be without challenge. Part of our pledge is providing you with the resource to make your opportunities accommodating and accessible to young people, and alongside this we will be reviewing our own processes, so we’re in this together.

Soon, we’ll be bringing you new resources and making new connections to make sure we are not only responding to your feedback as members, but supporting youth social action while we’re at it.

If you are already working with young people in your community, or want to find out more about what we’re doing to fulfil our pledge, please get in touch with Emma at emma@ctauk.org.

Initial ATCO Response to the Department for Transport Letter

The Association of Transport Coordinating Officers (ATCO) brings together local authority staff members that are responsible for passenger transport.  Following the Department for Transport’s letter on driver licensing and permits, ATCO have written to their members to outline their views and next steps for local authorities.  

ATCO

Re: The Issue and Use of Section 19 and Section 22 Permits for Road Passenger Transport in Great Britain

I refer to the Department for Transport (DfT) letter dated the 31st July 2017 on the above matter and ATCO’s  advice on the matter.

Unfortunately due to its timing and sudden nature we have not had time to undertake a full review of the implications or to discuss this with the DfT and as a consequence have requested a meeting with them at the earliest opportunity. We have also not had the opportunity to form a collective ATCO response, however as we had already set up a special interest group meeting on Community Transport on the 7th September 2017 it is our intention to use this meeting to establish this. Anyone interested in attending this meeting should email sue.davey@suffolk.gov.uk who can provide more details. In doing this it will provide us the opportunity to ensure we are able to provide the DfT with a qualified ATCO position by the start of the consultation in Autumn.

I should also add we have met with the Community Transport Association (CTA) and will remain in contact with them throughout to ensure clear channels of communication and support through this period. Statements by the CTA on the matter can also be found on our website.

As the advice refers to a specific case and circumstances, and the DfT have stated their intention to consult and review s19 and s22 legislation. In the interim our advice is that it is not prudent to award new contracts to community transport groups until issues are resolved, but we do not believe that councils should make any changes to existing contracts it holds with section 19 or section 22 groups until further advice is received from the DfT and/or DVSA, as current contracts were issued in good faith and in line with thinking at the time.    

Clearly ATCO may need to review its position if further instructions or advice is received from the DfT and/or DVSA which necessitates a change.

On a final point I think it is extremely important that any concerns questions members have regarding the DfT letter are directed to the email address provided by the DfT; buses@dft.gsi.gov.uk as this will ensure they have a full picture of the issues and concerns.

Regards

Chris Pettifer – Chair of ATCO

 

Don’t forget to sign CTA’s petition at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-community-transport to keep our communities moving.

Keep our Communities Moving

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Yesterday the CTA launched an online petition “Keep our communities moving!” I am pleased to say that in one afternoon we received well over 200 signatures of support.

As we are in parliamentary recess and holiday season, we will use this time to grow support for our sector and take this petition to Jesse Norman MP, Under-secretary of state for Transport when my meeting is confirmed in September.

So why are we doing this?

Earlier this month the Department for Transport distributed a letter which could have major implications for charities, community groups and public bodies that provide transport for their service users.

This is intended to settle how European Union regulations relating to passenger transport are interpreted into UK law and the UK Government will consult in the autumn on how they want this to work in future.

Who will it impact? Not just community transport

Exactly how this will have an impact is as yet unknown. We suspect there will be implications for hundreds of charities and thousands of their employees, but most crucially it presents massive risks to the quality of life and independence of many tens of thousands of vulnerable citizens and they have to come first.

This is not just about community transport services, but all those other charities and community groups that provide transport for their beneficiaries to participate in whatever their social purpose is- be that sport, positive and healthy activities for young people, tackling rural isolation and helping older people stay independent.

We are pushing the UK Government to accept that one of its objectives in settling this matter is to leave these vital services in good shape and able to continue to serve their communities. We believe that message has got through, but to let them know just how much support there is for them doing this, we are asking you to sign this pledge.

Everywhere we go, across our country, we meet politicians and members of the public who love community transport, and the difference it makes for people and communities. We call on all these friends across the transport industry, central government, local government and the charity sector to stand with us and secure a stable future for these vital services and community activities that touch the lives of so many.

Please join our pledge and spread the message

This is not about transport. It’s about the kind of country we want to live in. We think most people would say that’s one where the needs of the vulnerable come first, so they can have the quality of life they deserve and feel that they belong.

Our pledge has four sentences that we hope you will be happy to support and promote to others:

  1. I stand with all those charities and community groups that provide transport for a social purpose and community benefit. They enable people to live, learn and work independently, to stay fit and active, to access vital public services and participate in their community.
  2. This type of transport provision is Britain at its best with communities doing things for themselves and it must be cherished, protected and nurtured.
  3. I want the UK Government to work with its counterparts in the devolved nations to commit themselves to making sure that nobody suffers as a result of its proposed changes to operator and driver licensing.
  4. I want them to commit to fully understanding the impact of their proposed changes so they can decide whether all this upheaval is worth it and choose another path or decide how they can support those communities most affected, especially our most vulnerable and isolated citizens

 

Thank you for caring for your local community and showing Community Transport your support. So please join our pledge and sign up here:

http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-community-transport

Increase in concessionary fare reimbursement for Section 22 routes in Wales.

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One of CTA’s three strategic priorities is ‘Championing accessible and inclusive transport’ and part of this is representing the interests and value of community transport to those in national and local government.

Recently, a number of members in Wales who operate Section 22 routes got in touch with us to share their concerns around concessionary fare reimbursement. They said that they were having to consider ending some of their Section 22 community bus routes as the current concessionary fare reimbursement arrangements meant that they were unable to cover the journey costs.

After hearing the issues that CTA members Travol Community Transport and ACT were experiencing, we set up a meeting with colleagues in the Welsh Government. They advised that the regulations clearly state operators should be ‘no better and no worse’ off as a result of participating in the concessionary travel scheme.

In practice, however, many community transport operators in Wales running Section 22 routes have been finding themselves worse off, with some making losses of up to £10,000 a year which they have had to use their reserves to cover.  Obviously, this wasn’t a sustainable situation.

The CTA team in Wales subsequently put together a discussion paper which set out the current situation and made recommendations for changes. After sharing the paper with Welsh Government and ATCO (the Association of Transport Coordinating Officers), the decision was taken to raise the level of reimbursement for CT operators in Wales that run Section 22 services  by adjusting the representative concessionary fare for CT by 8.7%, backed dated to 1st April 2016.

This will make a huge difference to our members who have been affected by this.

“A big thank you to Christine, Carl and everyone else who has been instrumental in convincing ATCO and the Welsh Government that an increase in the concessionary reimbursement rate for CT operators is warranted. On behalf of Travol Community Transport I must say that we are delighted with the increase secured and even more pleased with the fact that the increase is to be backdated”.

Colin, Travol Community Transport

“Free travel for the elderly and disabled is an important part of the public transport system and more passengers with mobility issues are looking to community transport to provide free travel. Changes in the generation rate do not affect section 22 services and we were pleased to support the case made by the CTA to insulate operators in Wales from these changes.”

Richard Cope, ATCO Cymru Chair 

Well done to the team in Wales who promptly responded to member concerns and ensured a change in policy that will allow these routes to continue supporting passengers to use their concessionary travel pass to make vital local journeys.

 

 

From Mexico to Swansea to London – providing transport for the Mexican Para Athletics Squad

David Brooks

The community transport sector has a history of providing accessible transport for major athletics events, including the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics and the 2014 IPC European Athletics Championships in Swansea.

This year, London recently played host to the 2017 World Para Athletic Championships and community transport was once again a key partner in delivering accessible transport for the event.

Also providing transport to this year’s Para Athletics was DANSA Community Transport, a CTA member based in Wales, who played a pivotal role in providing accessible transport for members of the Mexican Para Athletics Squad.

The Mexican Para Athletics squad had previously trained at Swansea University’s world class training base ahead of the 2012 Paralympic games and had such a good experience of the training facilities and local transport links that they decided to prepare at the base ahead of the Para Athletics Championships, even though London is nearly 200 miles away!

Prior to the Championships, the Community Transport Association were approached by Disability Sport Wales and asked to link the Mexican squad with a community transport provider in the Swansea area who could provide accessible transport for the team and their equipment. DANSA Community Transport, who operate a variety of community transport services across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, immediately came to mind as they were involved in transporting athletes to the 2012 Paralympics and the 2014 European Athletics Championships.

“DANSA were able to provide transport for the Mexican Para Athletics squad from Swansea University to London’s Olympic Park stadium using one of our accessible minibuses and two of our experienced and fully trained MiDAS qualified drivers,” said Alison Owen, DANSA’s Finance and Development Officer. “Although there were some initial language barriers, the journey was undertaken in great spirit and we wished the Mexican squad all the very best for the Championships and hope to see them again in the not too distant future!’

Well done to everyone at DANSA for their hard work and congratulations to the squad for their nine medals: one gold, four silver and four bronze!

 

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We’re doing a review of CTA Membership and we want to hear your thoughts

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Community Transport Association Member Survey 2017 is now open.

On 28th July, we launched the CTA Member Survey 2017. We want to make sure that the services and support we provide suit your needs and that you feel membership with CTA is valuable to your organisation. To ensure we get this right, we’re doing a review of our membership offer and our first step is to speak to you, our members.

We would love to hear your thoughts, understand where we can support you and learn how the services and support we provide can best suit your needs. We care about you and what you think of your membership with us.

It’s important to us that you, our members, are leading this process and that you feel that you can contribute to, and shape your new membership offer.

Help us make sure we get this right: give us your thoughts and feelings, tell us your successes, challenges and hopes for the future.

Make sure your voice is heard; click here to take the survey.

The survey should take around 10 minutes to complete and, to say thank you, 4 respondents will win a free place to a CTA event of their choice in the next 12 months.

Community transport exists because you and over 1,600 other members like you have decided that the people in our communities have a right to get to where they need to be.  Every day your work inspires us, and in return it is our responsibility to make sure we know what you want from CTA and how we can best support you.

By filling in this survey you are asking us to ‘count you in’ to help shape the future our membership offer.  This is an exciting project and we want your views to form a key part of our future, and the future of inclusive and accessible transport throughout the UK.

If you have any questions about the survey, or our membership review, feel free email emma@ctauk.org