Online Event Recap: Meet the Minister, Northern Ireland
by Tim Cairns
Director for Northern Ireland
From October to December, CTA is holding a series of free online events looking at important topics for the community transport sector, and what life might look like for our members over the next few months and into 2021. Throughout lock-down, our online events, from our weekly member drop in calls to our Recovery and Restart webinar in July, have been great ways for members to connect with each other and the CTA team in what has been a challenging and uncertain time. Your feedback has been that you wanted to see more opportunities for online events looking at the important topics and issues facing the community transport sector at the moment.
It was great to start off our ‘Meet the Minister’ events on 14 October with Nichola Mallon MLA, Infrastructure Minister for Northern Ireland. We’re privileged in Northern Ireland to have a Minister who is supportive of the work of community transport and who was visibly and vocally giving her backing to the sector throughout lockdown.
During the event, it was great to engage with Nichola on community transport’s finances. Over the last 6 years, the Rural Community Transport Partnerships (RCTPs) have suffered a 40% reduction in funding. This reduced funding has prevented our members from being able to properly plan for the future. RCTPs have not been able to spend money on capital expenses and vehicle fleets are now getting to the edge of what is required to operate a viable transport service. Older fleets mean higher costs in repair and running, but with less money, it means service is suffering. The Minister listened to those concerns and expressed her frustration that the DfI budget requires 50% of money to be spent on infrastructure costs to simply stand still.
In recent months Translink have expressed their concern about the viability of rural transport routes. For many years CTA have argued that introducing section 22 permits here would help community transport and Translink to work together to better serve rural communities. The Minister expressed her view that this was worth considering going forward.
In 2018 DfI changed its driver licensing guidance. This change was out of step with the rest of the UK and has cost many third sector organisations vital funds to get a professional bus driving qualification for their charity workers. The Minister was pressed by CTA members on the costs to them and how money was removed from frontline services to pay for the professional bus driver licence.
At CTA, we’re grateful for the time the Minister took to speak to and listen to our members. The Minister’s open and honest reflections on issues facing community transport was refreshing. We look forward to continuing to work with the Minister to ensure CT provides the best possible service for users within the resources available.
If you’re interested in attending any of our other events, take a look at ctauk.org/online-events and if you have any questions about any of the topics covered in this event, you can get in touch with our advice service at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find our coronavirus guidance for community transport providers at ctauk.org/covid19-guidance.
You can also contact the CTA advice service if you need any further information. The CTA team are currently working remotely, so to ensure you speak to the right person first time, please email email@example.com receive a call back.
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