Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk has raised concerns about the future of community transport providers like Community Connexions in Parliament.
Community transport providers are under threat from EU regulations. These may require them to apply for £26k commercial operators licences and force volunteer drivers to have professional training.
Alex Chalk explained: “Community transport – local, not-for-profit transport for people covers a broad range of services. It covers lift-giving by volunteer car drivers, dial-a-ride minibus services for disabled and elderly people, and local bus services that cannot survive on a commercial basis.”
Although the EU regulations came into force in 2011, the UK Government has traditionally operated a light touch licensing regime for the provision of community transport. Following pressure and the threat of legal action from the Bus and Coach Association, the Government has been forced to review the position.
Speaking in Parliament, Alex Chalk challenged Transport Minister Jesse Norman to take a ”robust line” on the regulations and protect community providers. He said:
“My concern is that it is not so much about gold-plating the EU regulation as being excessively cautious in its interpretation. There is a role here for the Government to take a robust line…..There is an overwhelming public interest and, just as importantly, a powerful and legitimate legal argument for taking this on, and I would urge the Government to do so.
“The implications of these changes for my community in Cheltenham are very significant. Community Connexions … has 50 volunteers. It makes 100,000 passenger journeys a year, with 13,000 passenger trips to day centres and 5,000 trips to health appointments. As one example, we have a fantastic facility near Cheltenham called the Butterfly Garden, which provides education, therapy and recreation for people with disabilities, and the commercial providers simply do not want a contract to serve that fantastic facility.”
Alex Chalk added: “The Government needs to move promptly to end the paralysis and uncertainty that is afflicting the community transport sector. Secondly it needs to act generously on funding to assist community transport providers in obtaining further permits for licences or additional training, as required.”
Responding to the debate Jesse Norman offered his: “reassurance that we will continue to do whatever we can to protect and support it, subject to the process of law, in the coming months.”
Read the full exchange here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-05-10/debates/E442B6C0-73E0-4325-9D56-4686AED724C7/CommunityTransport