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Agenda item

Flintshire County Council's Response to the Welsh Government White paper 'Improving Public Transport'

Decision:

(a)       That the WG Consultation be noted; and

 

(b)       That the Committee’s comments regarding concessionary bus passes are incorporated into the Council’s response.

Minutes:

The Chief Officer (Streetscene and Transportation) introduced a report on the Welsh Government (WG) Transport White Paper ‘Improving Public Transport’.  He reported that the WG had issued a consultation White Paper in December 2018, on plans to improve public transport in Wales.   The purpose of the consultation was to seek views on the WG legislative proposals for reforming the planning and delivery of local bus services in Wales, together with the licensing of taxis and other private hire vehicles.  The closing date for responses to the consultation was 27 March 2019.

 

                        The Chief Officer advised that there were 10 proposals within the White Paper which were summarised within the  report.  He explained that proposals 1 to 6 related to public transport and invited the Integrated Transport Unit Manager, and the Regulatory Services Manager to report on each of the proposals and the general proposed responses.  Proposals 7 to 10 referred directly to taxi licensing and the Council’s response had been discussed by the Licensing Committee.  The proposed response to the questions relating to these proposals were detailed in appendix 1 to the report. 

 

            Councillor Carolyn Thomas expressed concerns regarding the lack of clarity in relation to proposal 1 in the report and the membership of the Joint Transport Authority and funding arrangements.  She explained she  had raised these issues with the WG and had been told that  a more detailed paper could  follow shortly.  She also pointed out that the White Paper did not mention how Transport for Wales would fit in.  She added that the Authority  currently delivered WG funding on behalf of other North Wales authorities, e.g. bus passes and the bus support grant.  Councillor Thomas also referred to the new livery that Flintshire would be putting on buses and the Chief Officer agreed to circulate information regarding this to the Committee.

Councillor  Joe Johnson said he was opposed to the proposal to increase the eligibility age for the mandatory concessionary fares scheme to bring in line with a woman’s pensionable age.  He expressed the view that bus passes should remain  available from the age of 60 and commented on the need to reduce the carbon footprint.  He felt that the proposed  changes could have a negative impact. 

Councillor Carolyn Thomas emphasised that people under the age of 65 who already received a free bus pass would continue to be eligible to receive a free pass.

Councillor David Evans referred to the Authority’s suggested responses to the WG white paper for transport which was appended to the report.  Commenting on questions 18 and 19 which both had the answer ‘Yes’ he said that this did not answer the questions.  Councillor Evans supported the view that the concessionary  bus pass age should remain at 60.  He felt that in many cases the concessionary fares could maintain the operation of bus services  and suggested that changes could make routes unviable in the future. He also referred to the carbon footprint and said that by using a bus service people did not have to use their cars and also referred to the social benefits to be gained by meeting other people, going out and about, and gaining access to social activities, health and wellbeing services.  He urged the Council to amend the Consultation Response with regarding to Concessionary bus passes to retaining the status quo. 

Councillor David Evans commented on the number of bus passes which were issued but not used and referring to the reapplication process said there was a need to ensure that people who had their bus passes reissued actually used them.

Councillor Chris Dolphin said that  bus passes were popular but cost a lot of money.  He emphasised the importance of reliability and up to date timetables and said there was a need to ensure that bus services were scheduled so that users of the service had enough time to visit town centres and spend at least 2 hours there which would increase footfall and rejuvenate local businesses in the area. 

Councillor Thomas recognized there was more work to be done in relation to bus timetables which was an ongoing challenge in terms of the resources needed to keep up to date with changes to service routes and service timetables etc.

In response to a question regarding the budget tor local travel arrangements, Councillor Carolyn Thomas advised that the budget was approximately £500k for public transport in Flintshire.  A total of £1m for the whole of the County including approximately £500 from WG.

Councillor Andy Dunbobbin supported the need to maintain concessionary bus pass age at 60 and referred to people’s health and wellbeing, citing the need to visit GP surgeries and hospitals as examples.  He added that if the bus pass age was raised this could have a negative impact on social and healthcare budgets in the future.

Councillor Dunbobbin welcomed the suggestion that Councils could operate services and  asked if this would join up with community transport schemes, school transport arrangements etc.

Councillor Carolyn Thomas recognized the need to maintain transport services and the importance of being able to access transport to maintain  health and wellbeing needs.

Councillor Ray Hughes expressed concern regarding public transport in rural areas and said there was  the potential for people to become isolated if bus services could not be accessed.  He emphasised the importance of ensuring up to date information regarding timetables and the need to ensure they were synchronized citing the example of a recent change to a service which had resulted in a 45 minute wait for a connection to the next service.

Councillor Kevin Hughes thanked officers for their work.  He reiterated the views expressed by Councillor David Evans that not all people who applied for a concessionary bus pass used it.  He commented that bus passes should be allocated to those who needed them and suggested that a form of means testing could be introduced to ensure a more needs based system.   

The Chief Officer (Planning, Environment and Economy) referred to  the current position on the  WG proposals on the licensing of taxis and other private hire vehicles as detailed in the report  He said the Council’s response had been discussed by the Licensing Committee and the proposed responses to the proposals were appended to the report.

Councillor Joe Johnson commented on the regulations in Flintshire whereby hackney carriage licences could only be provided to black cabs, whereas in other North Wales authorities it was possible to obtain a licence with saloon cars and standard mini buses.  He said this was problematic as black cabs were extremely expensive to buy.

The Licensing Team Leader explained that the Authority was nominated as a first phase authority with regard to the Disability Discrimination Act to ensure all hackney carriages were accessible and adopted the black cab.  She confirmed there were only 2 registered hackney carriages licences in Flintshire.

Councillor Johnson  added that this demonstrated that the current system was not working, with only 2 taxis available for the whole of flintshire for people to be hailed  down as private hire vehicles can only take pre-bookings. Cllr Johnson urged the Council to give this further consideration.

Councillor Kevin Hughes suggested that taxis be fitted with CCTV for the protection of driver and customers.  The Chief Officer (Planning, Environment and Economy) advised that the use and standards for CCTV within vehicles, as detailed in Question 23, page 30, of the report, were supported.

Councillor Chris Bithell commented that the introduction of national standards was to be supported and were advantageous in terms of public protection.  He said he was opposed to central organisation and spoke of the importance of local knowledge and the sharing of vital information in terms of public protection matters.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(a)       That the WG Consultation be noted; and

 

(b)       That the Committee’s comments regarding concessionary bus passes are incorporated into the Council’s response.

Supporting documents:

 

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