Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk has praised the “remarkable” work of “fantastic” local community transport provider Community Connexions in Parliament.
In a speech on Tuesday 27 February he highlighted the work of Community Connexions (CC) and its “public–spirited” volunteers. He identified the service to the Butterfly Garden, and taking more than 5,000 passengers to health appointments as important examples of Community Connexions’ work.
Mr Chalk raised his concern that the work of charitable community transport organisations is currently under threat following a legal challenge based on EU regulations. A group of commercial operators have argued current practices create unfairness and are demanding a “level playing field” on the provision of “state aid” for “contestable” contracts.
As a result the Government has been forced to issue new guidelines and is currently consulting on changes to the interpretation of section 19 of the Transport Act 1985.
Addressing the Minister, Mr Chalk said:
“Community providers are not-for-profit, so any surplus they manage to gain through a contract is used to extend the reach of charitable community transport and therefore the scope for doing more good. So it is of course right that the Government respond to this legal challenge, but I hope they will do so in a way that is proportionate and does not fatally undermine the ability of community transport providers to continue as a going concern.”
Mr Chalk commented: “Of course the decisions of the Court cannot be ignored. But the Government must do everything it can to recognise and support the unique work of community providers.
“I urge the Government: first, to move promptly to end the paralysis and uncertainty that is afflicting the community transport sector; secondly, to act generously on funding to assist community transport providers in obtaining further permits for licences or additional training, as required; and, thirdly, to keep firmly in mind when addressing this the enormous social dividend and return to society that results from the work these organisations do. The Government must recognise that losing community transport providers would be a tragedy for some of the most deprived in our society.”