Transport Select Committee Publish Community Transport Report
by Bill Freeman
Transport Select Committee Report -‘the Department must not use a sledgehammer to crack a nut’
Following the submission of nearly 300 pieces of evidence and two oral evidence sessions the Transport Select Committee has today published its report on Community Transport
In its report today, The Transport Select Committee has published its findings and recommendations on community transport and the Department for Transport’s proposed consultation. The report is definitive in stating that community transport is invaluable to our communities, that it should be protected, and importantly that there is no evidence of widespread permit abuse, or that community transport operators are any less safe than commercial operators.
As we await the impending consultation from the Department for Transport it’s important that the Department reflect on its scope, and as the Committee state they ‘must not use a sledgehammer to crack a nut.’
Since the DFT letter of 31 July 2017, and in our evidence to the Transport Select Committee, we have time and again warned that the impact of these changes will go way beyond larger operators and challenged the view that most CTOs will be unaffected. In particular, from speaking to and advising our members and reading their submissions to the Committee it is clear that these proposed changes are not only a threat to community transport operations, but a threat to the well-being of their service users; a view which the Committee has validated.
The Transport Select Committee’s response makes it clear that they share the concerns of CTA and its members. You can read their report in full here. There are five key messages which should give us some encouragement as we await the Department for Transport’s consultation:
The Committee have acknowledged that there is a ‘notable lack of reliable evidence against which to assess where the practices of community transport organisations create widespread unfairness or the geographical extent of the problem.’
They further acknowledge that ‘Local authorities and CTOs have acted in good faith, and generally in accordance with the longstanding official guidance. Moreover, many CTOs have acted with the acquiescence and encouragement of successive governments to deliver public sector contracts and become more self-sufficient and “professional” in outlook. They also deliver considerable wider social benefit’
We have always believed that widespread regulatory change is an over-reaction inspired by a commercial litigant. This sentiment reflected in the report which states ‘The Department should consider whether a satisfactory outcome may have been achieved earlier had it tackled relatively localised issues head on several years ago, and learn the lessons for its future regulation of policy areas which are its responsibility’
We welcome the Committee’s support for CTA’s view that the DFT consultation must address wider public policy issues and not only look through the narrow prism of simply settling a legal matter. They agreed that ‘The consultation must also be used as an opportunity to consider reforms designed not only to achieve compatibility, but also to continue to achieve the key public policy objective of the sector—the provision of high quality, safe and secure local community services for people who might otherwise be left isolated’
Finally, as we approach exiting the European Union we are encouraged that the Transport Select Committee has stated ‘In the context of exiting the European Union, we recommend the Department for Transport, alongside its forthcoming consultation, begin to consider longer term legislative change to maintain and foster the UK’s unique approach to community transport’
It is now the responsibility of the DfT to consider this report in light of their upcoming consultation and their next steps in ensuring the viability of community transport. As we approach 2018, it is now up to them to not only consider how they can satisfy the European Commission but how public policy interventions can ensure community transport can thrive in all parts of the UK.
We have no doubt that the Department for Transport values the difference community transport makes for communities and people facing isolation and loneliness and it wants this to continue. The Committee’s report shows them the strength of feeling for taking a more sensitive approach that leaves the CT sector in good shape and gives them some good ideas for that. We hope they listen and we are happy to work with them to achieve a better settlement.
The Transport Select Committee has confirmed what we always knew; that community transport is invaluable, safe, and for many, the only way to get to where they need to be. As we await the consultation from the DfT we need to continue to make these arguments to protect our services, and to ensure our communities can stay connected
If you have any questions about the report you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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