To consider the results of the five yearly review of the free bus travel scheme and the proposals resulting from the responses received. In addition, support is sought to further explore a stand-alone discretionary scheme and report back to Cabinet.
Cabinet Portfolio Holder – Councillor Wallace Redford
This item was considered before the other substantive agenda items so that it could be debated immediately after public speaking.
Cllr Wallace Redford (Portfolio Holder for Transport and Planning) thanked Mr Waller for his contribution and stated that the issues he had raised would be taken into consideration. He went on to introduce the report which comprehensive detailed the results of a review of the current concessionary travel scheme and consideration of potential options to amend the scheme in the light of the feedback from the review. Councillor Wallace advised that the Council had a statutory duty to deliver the national concessionary travel scheme but the Council operated an extension of the scheme in terms of the permitted hours of travel. After an extensive consultation which had attracted a considerable number of responses, he outlined the proposals as follows:
· To retain the current extended weekday travel times of 9am-midnight for older person’s passes (statutory provision was for Off peak bus travel between 9.30am and 11.00pm on weekdays, and all day at weekend and on bank holidays).
· To allow all day travel disabled person’s pass holders below retirement age for a trial period of 12 months in order to assess demand and cost implications
· To conduct a feasibility study on the introduction of a pass allowing travel for carers/companions of disabled people. Council Redford noted that this had garnered support of 74% of respondents to the consultation and the comments of the public speaker were also a reflection of this need.
Councillor Seccombe recollected the engagement that had taken place between the LGA and service users to inform and shape the national policy and noted the importance of companion passengers to facilitate this. She welcomed the direction of travel set out in the report and expressed the view that it was important to conduct a further assessment of the potential demand and costs involved in extending the scheme further.
Councillor John Holland, who shared the travel experience of a disabled resident in his division, supported a commitment to implementing a carers/companion pass immediately.
Councillor Jerry Roodhouse echoed these comments and considered that since there were already figures evidenced in the report, the focus of the feasibility study would be financial. In response, Councillor Seccombe explained that the figures were needed before a decision was made and it was her view that this would be available in a relatively short space of time. She explained that the decision to extend the scheme should be evidence based.
Councillor Peter Butlin welcomed the report and the request from the Department of Transport to align financial support to usage. However, he noted that public transport services had been slow to recover from the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Councillor Andy Crump, expressed the view that it was important to take time to consider what an appropriate scheme would look like rather than rush into a scheme that may not meet service users’ needs.
Councillor Seccombe reasserted the view that considering the feasibility of a passenger transport companion scheme would be a short exercise that could be completed over the summer. Monica Fogarty, Chief Executive, clarified that although the full feasibility study was due to conclude in August and then be reported to Cabinet, it would be possible to bring forward the element relating to companion passes to an earlier date.
1. Approves the continuation of the Warwickshire County Concessionary Travel Scheme attached to the report at Appendix 1 for a further period of five years, from 1 April 2023 until March 2028, subject to the modifications referred to in resolution 2 below;
2. Approves the introduction of all day travel for holders of disabled person’s passes below state retirement age, for a trial period of 12 months to commence as soon as possible after 1 April 2023; and
3. Supports further exploration of a stand-alone discretionary scheme for other groups of individuals and undertaking a feasibility study into introducing companion passes as set out in section 5 of the report with proposals to be reported back to Cabinet.