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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting:  27 January, 2014

Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

Funding and Delivery of Greenlinks Community Transport Service 1st April 2014 onwards

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To set out a mechanism for the future funding of the Greenlinks Community Transport service (Greenlinks hereafter) beyond 1st April 2014.  Greenlinks aims to provide demand responsive transport to those who are unable or do not have access to public transport.  Greenlinks offers a transport service primarily for residents of the Vale of Glamorgan. 

Recommendations

1.         That the Greenlinks Community Transport Service is supported by the Council for the financial year 2014/15 in accordance with the details outlined in this report.

 

2.         That a further report is received by Cabinet in September 2014 providing detailed analysis of usage and costings of the Greenlinks Service as well as customer feedback.

 

3.         That with immediate effect all future financial sustainable transport planning obligation contributions (s106) are top sliced through negotiations with developers by 25% to assist in the funding of a Vale-wide Greenlinks community transport service and to provide financial support to other Vale of Glamorgan public transport services unless the Director of Development Services in consultation with Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation determine otherwise.

4.         That the sustainable transport planning obligation contributions already received for the applications listed in Appendix A are top sliced by 25% to fund Greenlinks and other Vale of Glamorgan public transport services.

5.         That the Planning Obligation Supplementary Planning Guidance document is updated to reflect the approach as outlined in this report.

6.         That this report is referred to Planning Committee for their information.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To provide a flexible means of community transport for residents of the Vale in a cost effective and reliable manner.

2.         To evaluate the usage, cost and customer satisfaction of the Greenlinks Service.

3.         To enable the continuation of the Greenlinks Community Transport Service and to provide financial support to other public transport services and to allow flexibility where site specific and development specific dictates as explained in paragraph 28 of the report.

4.         To ensure that there is funding available from April 2014 for Greenlinks and other public transport services.

5.         To enable the Greenlinks Service to operate during 2014/15.

6.         To advise Planning Committee of this report.

 

Background

2.         Community Transport is used to cover a variety of Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) schemes carrying passengers in a number of ways.  DRT only operates if users have requested the service in advance.  Community Transport, with the use of accessible vehicles has traditionally provided transport for the mobility impaired, either through disability and/or age and who cannot access conventional public transport.  However, it is also used to provide DRT which caters for geographically, socially or economically isolated users of all ages.  It normally offers affordable fares and services and is operated under Section 19 or 22 permits.  The service is often operated using a mixture of paid and volunteer drivers and administrators. 

3.         Not for Profit organisations, (such as the Council) can obtain permits under Section 19 and 22 of the Transport Act 1985.  These permits provide exemption to the organisation to hold a Public Service Vehicle operator's (PSV) licence when providing public transport for a charge.  These permits also allow drivers with category D1 (101) on their driving licences to drive people who pay individual fares, providing the vehicles have no more than 16 passenger seats.  Vehicles with 17 or more passenger seats will require drivers with PCV licences.

4.         Vehicles operating Section 19 permits cannot carry members of the general public, and can only carry persons who meet the identified classifications of the permit.  One such classification is passengers are members of the organisation or body (for example Greenlinks) holding a permit.  These permits can be used on small vehicles carrying eight or fewer passengers as well as vehicles of up to 16 passenger seats.

5.         Vehicles operating Section 22 permits can run local bus services on a not for profit basis and they can carry members of the general public.  Vehicles must have a minimum of 9 passenger seats.  Local bus services can range between fixed routes and on-demand flexible routes within a specified area.  These local services must be registered with the Traffic Commissioner a minimum of 28 days in advance of first day of operation. 

6.         The Council's rural regeneration partnership, Creative Rural Communities, was granted European and Welsh Government funding via the Rural Development Plan for Wales (RDP) to develop a Community Transport project within the rural Vale in its current funding round.  The Greenlinks transport service, operated by the Council, was launched with a 13 seater accessible bus on 4th June 2010.  Using a Section 19 permit, the service has operated a door to door service since that time for those living in the rural Vale.

7.         A further funding package for Greenlinks was granted via Creative Rural Communities for March 2011 to 31st December 2013.  In February 2013 the timescale for Greenlinks was extended to 31st March 2014 with the addition of further grant funding.

8.         Greenlinks currently operates three vehicles:  a 13 seater accessible bus, a seven seater VW Sharan donated by NPower in January 2011 and a 9 seater accessible bus funded via a South East Wales regional transport services grant.  The service operates both Section 19 and Section 22 permits.  All three vehicles have a Section 19 permit, whilst the two larger buses also hold Section 22 permits.  Both buses have been used to deliver local bus routes on both fixed and flexible routes.

9.         The Greenlinks service operates between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday using Section 19 permits.  It provides a door to door service for passengers who have requested transport by 12 noon the day before travel.  The requests are considered by officers and the schedules for the vehicles are drawn up the day before travel to accommodate the most passenger requests.  Passengers are subsequently called in the afternoon before travel and are advised of their journey travel times.  Not all requests can be accommodated all of the time. The vehicles generally carry 2 or 3 people at any one time. 

10.      The two buses are also available for group bookings during the evenings and weekends.

11.      Greenlinks currently has approximately 976 members, 62 group members and provides on average 600 - 650 passenger journeys a month.

12.      On Thursdays, Greenlinks operates a G4 bus service which provides transport from Coastal towns and villages between Llantwit Major and Rhoose to Culverhouse Cross, Heath Hospital and central Cardiff. This service is delivered using a Section 22 permit against a guideline timetable and regularly carries 8 or 9 people on either the 9 or 13 seater bus.  The service is delivered as a flexible service and passengers must call in advance, (by 12noon the day before travel), to request a seat on the bus.   

13.      The G4 bus service is delivered under the Section 22 permit and is able to accept concessionary (free) bus passes.  Greenlinks is a member of the Concessionary Fare schemes of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, Cardiff Council and Bridgend Council.  Greenlinks receives financial reimbursement for the use of concessionary passes from these Councils on a quarterly basis.

14.      The Greenlinks service has previously piloted two fixed route services operated under a Section 22 permit.  On a Monday, Bus Service G1 ran from Llantwit Major to Bridgend via Wick, St Brides Major, Ewenny and Corntown.  Bus Service G7 ran on Sundays during the summer months from Cowbridge to Nash Point via Llantwit Major and Colhuw beach.  Both of these services operated on a set timetable and they were open to the general public.   Requesting a seat on the bus in advance was not required on these services.  Disappointingly, these services were poorly used.   The volunteer drivers found the experience demoralising as they were often driving around with an empty bus.  Therefore the Monday Bus Service G1 was terminated in August 2013 and the Summer Sunday Bus Service finished in September 2013.

15.      On 24th November 2013, Cabinet approved the introduction of a DRT flexible bus service in the Western Vale for a trial period of up to 4 months between Llantwit Major, Cowbridge and Bridgend.  This Service will begin operating on 20th January 2014 using a Section 22 permit.  All passengers will have to call in advance to request a seat on the bus. If no one requests the Bus Service, it will not run.  For example, if requests are received for the bus on a particular day to pick up from Llantwit Major (to go to Bridgend) and from Llandow (to go to Cowbridge), the bus would run with 2 people on it and go from Llantwit Major to Llandow to Cowbridge on to Bridgend.  If no one requests the bus on a particular day it would not run.

16.      The Council has received £36,900 grant funding from Sewta for the purchase of a fourth vehicle and for the replacement of the car.  Match funding is from Regional Transport Services Grant (RTSG) and from the Council's established transport budgets.  Both vehicles will be delivered in March 2014.

17.      Over the last year a number of bus operators, both supported and commercial have either reduced or cancelled bus services causing difficulties, in particular for residents of the rural Vale to access public transport.  This is in the main due to the reduction of grants available to bus operators (i.e. fuel duty rebate grant) thus making some rural services unviable to operate.  For example, the Village Bus Group of Services catered for most of the rural Vale but the Operator decided to cease running it in July 2013.  The E11 commercial bus service operated from Cowbridge to Talbot Green but again the Operator decided to cease running it in September 2013.  In addition commercial bus services have also been reduced recently in and around Barry.  

Relevant Issues and Options

18.      The RDP funding for Greenlinks ceases on 31st March 2014 and alternative funding is required to fund the project from 1st April 2014.  There is likely to be some slippage revenue funding available from the RDP for Greenlinks post 1st April 2014 (approximately £53,900) which will need to be used by the Project before 31st December 2014.  However to continue to run the Greenlinks Service as currently agreed and develop the service further in view of other pressures  on public transport beyond 1st April 2014 more funding is required.  It is currently anticipated that to run the Greenlinks Service for the financial year 2014/15 will require an additional £60,122 assuming that the net income for the Service is around £14,132.  The resources required to deliver the service are based on 4 vehicles (and all on costs) and an officer to project manage the programme, administration support , 20 volunteers and 2 paid drivers.  Currently Greenlinks has 13 volunteers and 1 paid driver.  Appendix B provides the Greenlinks Budget Forecast for 2014-2015.

19.      The Development Services Directorate is required to make further savings in their public transportation budgets over the next two years.  Savings of £90 000 for public transport need to be found in 2014/15 and a further £85,000 in 2015/16.  Although every attempt will be made to minimise the impact on public transport, there are other external funding changes that may well have significant impacts on public transport in the Vale.  For example there are likely to be changes to the funding mechanism for the Concessionary Fare Scheme from next April 2014, which in turn may result in less bus services operating in the Vale of Glamorgan.

20.      With these challenging changes to funding it is imperative to consider alternative methods of providing public transport in the Vale.  Greenlinks provides one such opportunity which will offer an alternative to the more expensive to run normal bus services.

21.      There are several options for Cabinet to consider in respect of the future of the Greenlinks bus service.

Option 1:  Stop the Greenlinks service on 31st March 2014 and lose both the Service and also the slippage RDP funding.   The vehicles would have to be sold and the proceeds returned to the funding bodies, including any financial penalties.  For the RDP funding 60% of the bus costs would have to be returned which amounts to £46,800.  This would also leave the existing Greenlinks users without a bus service and is not the preferred option.

Option 2:  Donate the Greenlinks vehicles to other organisations operating within the Rural Vale.  The Greenlinks vehicles could be donated to Community Transport organisations such as Dinas Powys Voluntary Concern, VEST or East Vale Community Transport.  However it is likely that these organisations would require additional support to run and manage the vehicles.  These organisations operate under Section 19 permits only and have specific remits in which they operate.  Alternatively the vehicles could be donated to non profit making organisations within the Vale such as a 'Scouts' group.  However the ongoing costs of administering and maintaining a vehicle, may be off-putting to these organisations and again this is not the preferred option.

 

Option 3: A Social Enterprise could be set up. This would require the identification      of appropriate people willing to set up and continue to deliver the Greenlinks scheme.  The initial outlay would be high to support the set up of the organisation and would be difficult to achieve before 31st March 2014.  Therefore this is not the preferred option.   

 

Option 4: The Council continues to operate Greenlinks using both Section 19 and Section 22 permits, thereby continuing to offer a Bus Service to everyone in the Vale of Glamorgan.  This option is preferred.  If this Option is accepted by Cabinet it is proposed in the first instance to run the new G1 flexible bus service (Llantwit Major to Bridgend via Cowbridge as above) and to continue the G4 flexible bus service (Thursday service to Cardiff from the coastal areas) using Section 22 permits.  The remainder of the Greenlinks service will be delivered using Section 19 permits offering a service for Greenlinks members.  In time, there is the option of considering other fixed or part fixed routes with Section 22 permits.  Anyone in the Vale of Glamorgan can become a member of Greenlinks. There is however, a need for the Council to find some £60,122 to fund Greenlinks for the financial year 2014/15 as well as an ongoing need to fund the project. 

 

22.      In order to fund the Greenlinks project next year and beyond it is proposed through negotiations with applicants to top slice all the Section 106 financial contributions for Sustainable Transport by 25%.  Therefore this would mean that subject to successful negotiation for proposals that result in the payment of a contribution for sustainable transport, 25% of those contributions would be set aside to fund the Greenlinks Community Transport service as well as providing funding to support other bus services as appropriate within the Vale of Glamorgan.

23.      S106 Planning obligations are usually sought on major developments for residential and commercial developments to mitigate the impacts of such development secured through a Legal Agreement.  The adopted Planning Obligations Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) sets out the range of obligations sought, which generally relate to Sustainable Transport, Affordable Housing, Community Facilities, Education, Public Art, Public Open Space and Off Site Highway Works.  The payment of such contributions is based on set thresholds for each obligation and can be secured in kind (on or off site) or by way of financial contributions, or a combination of both, dependent on the specific circumstances of the proposed development.  

24.      In relation to Sustainable Transport, the SPG states that the developments need to detail the necessary improvements to transport infrastructure required as a result of the development, to take account of the needs of all modes of transport and the needs of all future users.  This can relate to off site improvements to strategic and local highway networks and potential opportunities to provide facilities for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.  Such obligations can be provided directly by the developer (in kind) such as provision of new/enhanced bus shelters, provision of footways, cycle paths, traffic calming either within or outside a site. Alternatively, financial contributions can also be secured to provide or improve Sustainable Transport Facilities serving the development.  Such agreements define Sustainable Transport Facilities as usually being "information, facilities or infrastructure which provides or improves access for pedestrians, cyclists, public transport users, motor cycles, taxis or car shares".

25.      Where a Sustainable Transport facilities financial contribution has been received, there is an approved protocol whereby Local Members and relevant Cabinet Members (together with relevant service area officers) are consulted to identify specific schemes, prior to their implementation.  However, if 25% of this contribution were "top sliced" off any Sustainable Transport contribution, this would fall outside of the protocol for consultation, and would be "ring fenced" to only fund Greenlinks and other Vale of Glamorgan public transport services.  Top slicing of contributions to serve community and public transport services is in line with the wider definition of Sustainable Transport Facilities, to make provision for public transport users, as set out in the SPG.  The remainder of the contribution would still be subject to approved protocol for spend.

26.      Following a review of all S106 Planning obligations received to date, there are a total of 11 separate obligations which have not been fully committed as set out in Appendix A.  Thus a top slice of 25% would yield £144,122.66.  Under these circumstances it is considered that a level of top slicing of 25% would be an appropriate level to support the Greenlinks service and also assist in the provision of supported bus services as necessary.

27.      One of these obligations as identified in Appendix A relates to a financial contribution specifically to support a bus service relating to Marks and Spencer, Culverhouse Cross.  Due to the specific nature of the obligation and given that it relates to a supported bus service in any event, it is not considered feasible or necessary to top slice or ring fence an element of that obligation.

28.      It is however considered appropriate to refer to the fact that your officers will still have discretion to negotiate levels of contribution from each development site.  By way of example, there may be developments where top slicing of 25% of the sustainable transport contribution, means that much needed local schemes cannot be delivered due to lack of funding, likewise there may be other schemes where the provision of the full contribution towards a particular bus service may be appropriate.  In such cases it is important that discretion is applied to the negotiation process.  By the same token, in smaller schemes (with a resulting lower contribution) the level of top slicing may be significantly  less than 25% or in some cases a zero % in order to ensure that small local Sustainable Transport schemes still remain viable  and can be delivered.  The success of this approach will be monitored, based on the level of Sustainable Transport Facilities contributions received during that financial year and appropriately balanced in order to meet the required level of contribution necessary to fund community transport and supported bus services.

29.      Whilst top slicing is considered consistent with Sustainable Transport Facilities definitions set out within the SPG and S106 agreements, given that these pooled contributions from all sites within the Vale of Glamorgan would reduce opportunities for spend on specific sites, it is considered necessary for completeness and clarity, to update the SPG to reflect this report.  However, this would not prejudice this proposal being implemented with immediate effect. 

 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

30.      The cost of delivering a Greenlinks service for next financial year is identified in Appendix B and is approximately £128,154.  Fares are based on a Zoned Pricing Plan which is attached at Appendix C.

31.      The cost breakdown includes the employment of a full time Co-ordinator, an administrator and two part time (4-days a week) drivers and a small cost for out of pocket expenses for volunteer drivers.  The remainder of the cost will be the running cost of fuelling and maintaining the vehicles.  The cost does not allow for the depreciation cost of the vehicles.

32.      The funding breakdown for next financial year demonstrates the need for additional funding and it is proposed to fund the project by top-slicing the funds obtained from planning obligations to support sustainable transport.  Financial claims for fuel duty rebate will also be submitted to Sewta.  The Creative Rural Communities team have received permission from Welsh Government to carry the income earned  to next financial year to part fund the Co-ordinator post (£26,000) and part fund the running costs (£9,000) until December 2014.  The Welsh Government has also agreed to extend the current funding package so that £18,900 will be used to 31st December 2014.  However, £17,000 of the income accrued in 2014-2015 will be used by Creative Rural Communities.

33.      In order to ensure that there is sufficient funding available for 2014/15 to fund both the Greenlinks service and to assist in supporting bus services in light of continued budget pressures, it is proposed to top slice by 25% of all financial sustainable transport contributions.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

34.      The provision of a demand responsive service will assist in the reduction of unnecessary mileage, and provide a different, more sustainable and viable mode of public/community transport.  The use of S106 financial contributions to support community and public transport would constitute a sustainable use of funding linked to new development. 

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

35.      The running and maintenance of the vehicles will continue to comply with legislation as identified in the terms and conditions of the Section 19 and Section 22 permits and VOSA requirements for operating a public vehicle.  This involves daily visual checks on the vehicles completed by drivers ensuring the vehicle is fit for purpose, 6 weekly safety checks, services, and MOT on the vehicles carried out in the Alps Depot.

36.      Any local bus services registered are run in accordance to the paperwork submitted to the Traffic Commissioner under the terms of the Transport Act 1985, until a withdrawal of service notice is issued to the Traffic Commissioner providing 28 days notice.

Crime and Disorder Implications

37.      There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

38.      The Greenlinks Services offers mobility accessible vehicles and some of its services offer a door to door service meaning that residents can travel easily regardless of any mobility impairments.

Corporate/Service Objectives

39.      The provision of reliable and efficient public transport services provides alternative means of travel to the car, and ensures good accessibility for those without access to private transport.  This links with the Council's objectives for social wellbeing and tackling disadvantages.

Policy Framework and Budget

40.      This report is a matter for Executive Decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

41.      All Ward Members have been consulted as this relates to all planning obligations with a sustainable transport input and has the potential to affect all Wards.  Councillor Rhodri Traherne has commented as follows:

"I would make a number of comments:

I am exceedingly unhappy in regard to the retrospective top slicing of a great deal of money from the ‘Hensol Ward Blocks Section 106 Money’.  Alongside the Pendoylan Community Council, I have been in detailed discussions with Officers of the Council on how this money should be spent to improve the quality of life for people in my ward.  If the proposal was merely to top slice future sustainable transport ‘Section 106 Money’ then this would be an entirely different matter.  However, to have a quarter of this money arbitrarily appropriated to prop up services where grant has been withdrawn is unacceptable.  

My second concern is in regard to the long term viability of these proposals.  How is Green Links to be funded in 2015/16, in 2016/17 and on into the future?  The Council will be dependent on events and intentions that are completely outside its control.  It is surely impossible to anticipate how many housing and other developments will be agreed and how much money will be raised from future ‘Sustainable Transport’ obligations from developers.  As such, I would argue that the proposals are stop- gap and that the long term business plan for Greenlinks is flawed.

My third concern is that, reading between the lines, it appears that the Council is intending to use Greenlinks where possible as a cheap substitute for supported bus services.  Whilst I am a keen supporter of Greenlinks it is not and cannot be an acceptable cheap alternative to a properly supported bus service. 

Finally, it is my view that the Council Leadership should re-examine its priorities for spending and ensure that it provides services that really matter to real people.  The Cabinet should avoid spending money on grandiose projects, such as renovating the Council Chamber, which are irrelevant and of no interest at all to the many people ‘out there’, who are dependent on a decent bus service and other services that they really need."

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

42.      Economy & Environment

Background Papers

Appendix A - Sites where there are not fully committed sustainable transport schemes in place.

Appendix B - Greenlinks Budget.

Appendix C - Greenlinks Fare Zones

 

 

Contact Officer

Emma Reed Tel:  01446 704673

 

Officers Consulted

Finance

Legal

Operational Manager Development Control

Operational Manager Countryside and Economic Projects

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services.

 

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