Report of the Head of Planning, Transportation and Environment (PTE/18/18) outlining a proposed response to the Department for Transport Consultation on the use of section 19 and section 22 permits for road passenger transport in Great Britain, attached.
(Councillors Atkinson, Biederman, Connett, Dewhirst and Hannaford attended in accordance with Standing Order 25(2) and spoke to this item).
The Cabinet considered the Report of the Head of Planning, Transportation and Environment (PTE/18/18) outlining a proposed response to the Department for Transport Consultation on the use of section 19 and section 22 permits for road passenger transport in Great Britain, circulated prior to the meeting in accordance with regulation 7(4) of the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012.
A public consultation on the use of Community Transport (CT) permits had been published on 8 February 2018
(https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/section-19-and-22-permits-how-to-apply-eu-regulation-10712009) and responses were sought from permit-holders and issuers, stakeholders who relied on the services of permit-holders, (local authorities, NHS trusts, charitable organisations etc), holders of PSV licences and respective representative organisations by 4 May 2018.
The Report outlined that due to a series of concerns raised nationally and in Europe the Department of Transport were undertaking a consultation on the Community Transport (CT) Permit system. This specifically affected CT providers that undertook paid services, even if they were small scale linked to the local community. This would increase the regulatory process, meaning Community Transport providers would need to convert their operations to an Operators’ licence and their drivers obtain Passenger Carrying Vehicles (PCV) licences. This would significantly increase costs. Also, enhanced regulations were likely to reduce the number of volunteers willing to drive minibuses, especially older drivers on whom the sector was most reliant.
In terms of responding to the Consultation, the Report outlined that the issues were complex, covering competitively tendered contracts, salaried drivers, derogations within EU regulations and the definition of operating services for ‘non-commercial purposes’. However, DfT had made it clear within the consultation documentation that there was no flexibility in the law for the UK Government to introduce further exemptions.
Whilst DfT envisaged the majority of CT operators would not be affected by this clarification on EU rules, this was unlikely to be the case in Devon where the majority of CT operators had contracts with the County Council and employed paid drivers for some services, therefore the impact on the sector had been underestimated. The Consultation offered the opportunity to comment on the impact for specific groups in society which, it was felt, the Council should respond accordingly.
The Report outlined the current Community Transport Provision in Devon highlighting the Council supported a mature CT sector in Devon, having encouraged the development of services including Ring & Ride, voluntary car schemes and community buses over a period exceeding thirty years (Appendix I: Community Transport Schemes in Devon which operated S19 and S22 permit services). There was a good working relationship with both commercial and CT sectors, with the CT services complementing the local bus network, filling gaps in provision where the market was unable to provide appropriate services, particularly for vulnerable groups of people including elderly, disabled and rurally isolated passengers.
The anticipated effects of the Consultation proposals had been considered including the impacts of needing to convert operations to an Operators’ licence and drivers obtaining Passenger Carrying Vehicles (PCV) licences, CT groups being able to afford the costs associated with an enhanced regulatory process, the impact on volunteering and that the number of volunteers willing to drive minibuses might be reduced.
The Council, in response to the potential changes, had made local CT operators aware of DfT correspondence and sector response and held meetings with Devon’s CT operators (19 October and 8 February) to discuss the potential effects on their organisations, services and passengers, arrnaged and hosted a DfT workshop in Exeter on 5 April for South West CT operators, submitted a response to the Commons Select Committee inquiry (November 2017) into the licensing arrangements for CT minibuses and provided briefing notes to Devon MPs to raise the matter in Parliament.
The CT sector focussed many of its services on vulnerable people who didn’t have access to conventional pubic transport services, therefore a reduction could see a disproportionate increase in social isolation for vulnerable passengers and a reduction in access to essential shopping and other services. The DfT undertook an impact assessment of the proposals which accompanied their Consultation papers and the Cabinet noted there would be a final stage impact assessment once the policy details had been finalised following the completion of the process.
A proposed response to the six questions posed in the Consultation was also circulated for the attention of the Cabinet.
The matter having been debated and the options and/or alternatives and other relevant factors (e.g. financial, sustainability, carbon impact, risk management, equality and legal considerations and Public Health impact) set out in the Head of Service’s Report and/or referred to above having been considered:
It was MOVED by Councillor Croad, SECONDED by Councillor Hart, and
(a) that the publication of the Department for Transport’s Consultation on the use of section 19 and section 22 permits for road passenger transport in Great Britain, which asks for comments on proposed changes to law and guidance about who can operate public service vehicles (PSVs) without a PSV licence be welcomed and Cabinet note that the outcome is expected to bring clarification of the definitions affecting community transport permit schemes. However, it raises concerns about the current proposals and the negative impact they will have on Community Transport providers;
(b) that delegated powers be given to the Head of Planning, Transportation and Environment, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Community, Public Health, Transportation and Environmental Services, to submit a formal response to the Consultation to meet the deadline of 4 May 2018; and
(c) that the Council undertake further lobbying by referring the matter to the CCN and LGA and also Devon MPs.
[NB: The Impact Assessment referred to above may be viewed on the DfT website at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/680702/section19-22-consultation-impact-assessment.pdf