Tag Archives: drt

Will your pass be accepted on SCC’s New Community Transport?

So, people of Suffolk,will you be able to afford your new Community transport as re-engineered by your caring sharing Suffolk County Council? Will it accept your bus pass even?  I really wouldn’t count on it.

In Suffolk Coastal we haven’t yet been told the situation, but elsewhere in the county people already have had very bad news. Predictably, LibDem anxieties about the format of Suffolk’s new Community Transport franchises are already showing themselves to be justified.

UPDATE: I am very happy and relieved to report Suffolk Coastal Community Transport -operated by  previous  operators CATS  and FACTS(ibn Felixstowe)-  will be operating the same services as before:  a mix of Demand Responsive Transport (on which bus passes will be accepted), and door-to-door and community car services on which passes won’t be accepted (exactly as before.) They are available for booking by anyone – old, young, disabled, ablebodied, carowner or  carless  to and from areas without a bus service or with very sparse services. They will operate Monday to Saturday 7-7, and can be block-booked  (better than before) up to two weeks in advance.
The phone number is 01728 635938
Please use it folks. Or lose it.

However in mid-Suffolk, the  franchisees BSEVC have already announced that they will be operating no Demand Responsive Transport in their Community Transport offer – eg   Bus Passes will NO LONGER  be accepted, all fares will rise, under-16 fares will only apply if are accompanied by an adult, and the under 18 reduction is derisory. And, surprise, surprise, there seems to be no provision for young people to use SCC’s much vaunted youth card the Endeavour (that pallid simulacrum of the much more successful Explore  card  the young people of Woodbridge fought so hard with me to keep)

What price Suffolk's new Community Transport Franchise deal? A lot in BSE- with the new company accepting NO BUs Passes, nor fares for under 16s unless accompanied by an adult (!) plus an overall increase in adult fares. And will the SCC Endeavour card be honoured? Er.. no
(click to enlarge) What price Suffolk’s new Community Transport Franchise deal? A lot in BSE- with BSEVC accepting NO Bus Passes, nor fares for under 16s unless accompanied by an adult (!), scraping discounted returns  plus offering an overall increase in adult fares.  Nice.   And will the SCC’s Endeavour card – that supposed banner of support for the  travel-poor young people of Suffolk-  be honoured? Er.. no

As Creeting resident Mark Valladares said bitterly on Twitter,

“My Conservative County Councillor claimed we would have a “better service at lower cost”. Now we know what he meant”

Mr Valladares also pointed out that  BSEVC has scrapped the discounted return fare – his return fare is now up by 54%.

We wait for information

Babergh The Dining Room, Hadleigh Town Hall, Market Place, Hadleigh, IP7 5DN Friday 27th May Drop in

10.30 & 11.30

Forest Heath Forest Heath District Council, Council Chamber, College Heath Road, Milden hall, IP28 7EY Friday 3rd June Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Ipswich Ipswich Town Hall (Change) Friday 10th June Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Mid Suffolk Mid Suffolk District Council, The Dove Room, 131 High Street, Needham Market, IP6 8DL Wednesday 8th June Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
St Edmunds bury St Edmunds bury District Council, West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3SP Wednesday 1st June Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Suffolk Coastal Suffolk Coastal District Council, Council Chamber, Melton Hill, Melton, IP12 1AU Monday 6th June Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Waveney Waveney District Council, Riverside, 4 Canning Road, Lowestoft, NR33 OEG Wednesday 25th May Drop in between 14.00 & 15.00

Community Transport for Suffolk- even fewer services?

SCC’s cabinet has forced through a new Community Transport model for Suffolk– despite huge reservations from opposition parties and after many of these reservations were confirmed by the county’s cross-party scrutiny committee last month.

Community transport is the term for services like ‘Dial a Ride ‘ that provide transport on demand to those people  no longer served by scheduled buses or trains.

And there are a lot of these isolated folk in Suffolk. The Conservative administration has increasingly replaced scheduled bus services in rural areas with community transport operating under various brands serving specific communities and specific user-groups. Their vehicles have been provided by the county and the services largely specified by county officers, but delivery  of demand responsive services has remained patchy, disparate and problematic.  Often people have had little idea of availability and there have been large areas of unmet need – particularly regarding young person’s travel , regular travel to employment, weekend and evening travel, and same day travel.

The new proposal sees seven contracts (one per district council) to ensure holistic district branding – so people could identify who to phone to book a journey. It would also allow for greater flexibility of provision . (However, people often travel from one district to another to visit the hospital or to shop in a major town).

The SCC-owned vehicles will  be sold to the providers, a move that supposedly will  allow a wider range of customers to be served.  The voiced rationale is, when the county owns vehicles, providers are not allowed to use them to provide profitable services if they  compete with commercial services., as that would involve the state subsidising one service to compete against another. It will also, obviously save the county a lot of money!

Suffolk County County – still in thrall to the ideology of impossible competition which has failed rural bus transport so comprehensively over the past thirty years  – declares that this will allow ‘competition’ for eg some forms of home-to-school transport that will use the assets more intensively. (Why? Why now? Home-to school transport services have become  steadily more expensive, and council-dependent ever since bus deregulation made  competition mandatory outside London, thirty years ago. I would suggest this might just be because competition was not the answer!).

The proposal was ‘called in’ by the Labour group for several separate reasons. The call-in was supported by the LibDems , who thought thought the most significant objections to the scheme were financial.

For a start, the intention was that the county no longer provide free vehicles – saving it some £570k (which these largely voluntary bodies would have to find) – but also SCC would HALVE the community subsidy from £1.4m to £700k over the next four years.  This enormous cut was supposed to be  supported by the voluntary bodies’ increased revenue from the new ‘freedom’ to provide services !  (You may notice the same tired old rhetoric).

In fact, the scrutiny committee believed it was more likely that , although the providers would survive using their new freedoms and their vehicles to provide the county with some  alternative sources of transport (for instance home to school services) others would definitely suffer.  Many services to people without other transport options would be unlikely to be supported by the  halving of the county contribution – and would therefore be cut.

And as the new contract is deliberately non-specific, the County could  claim any such losses are matters outside its control. Talk about jesting Pilate.

Scrutiny therefore referred the decision back to cabinet. And, in a very brief process which allowed no comment from other councillors Suffolk’s Conservative Cabinet dismissed the reasoning of the cross-party scrutiny committee and decided there would be no change to this worrying decision.

They looked at scrutiny and thought, “Nobody tells us what to do!” So much for democracy! So much for ‘holding to account.’

Demand Responsive Transport? – or none of the above

Looking at my Twitter feed this snowy Monday,  I noticed the following:

DRT cancellation (527x328)

In other words – Suffolk’s Demand Responsive Travel (DRT) was unable to supply any travel services in response to any public demand for transport  in East Suffolk today.

Of course, if you live in an area where there are real live scheduled bus services, these have continued to run, snow or no.  In Woodbridge for example, we had the opportunity to use the 164, 165, 63,64, 65 buses today,  to name but a few. It was only those poor people in the countryside whose scheduled bus services were slashed by Suffolk County Council to make way for the ‘limousine of services’ who were left high and dry.

The phrase ‘Demand Responsive Transport‘ is as much of a euphemism as  ‘Care in the Community‘  –  and similarly is best when used by people who don’t really need to use  it. It doesn’t operate on evenings or weekends or holidays. It doesn’t run to strict times – or indeed to time at all.

Now we see that it  doesn’t operate on work days – at least if there’s the ‘wrong sort of snow.’

DRT  is  fine for people who want to go somewhere and are not constrained too much by time – or date:  people who might book it to save the hassle of driving and parking their car for a spot of shopping.   However DRT services are not useful for those who have to rely on DRT services.  People in the countryside who have traditionally relied on the bus for regular transport (eg to work or college) are not supported, because DRT cannot be block-booked. (This is because our Demand Responsive transport is not designed to be responsive to the requirements of  regular demand for transport .  Can you think of anything more ridiculous in a rural county where 20% of households are carless? )

DRT is also poor for people needing to meet appointments (eg doctors, dentists, hospitals, lawyers, banks, CAB, hairdressers, physiotherapy – o the list is endless) because there is no guarantee the vehicle will arrive at the time required – or indeed that it can reliably  take the person home again afterwards.

If the designers of Suffolk’s DRT were reliant on it for their work, their health, their social life, would it operate as it does? Indeed, would it ever have come into being?

It would be nice to wave a magic wand and find out.

 

What happening in SCC – April 2012

This last month SCC revealed details of pay throughout the council, and found that the differential between top and bottom salaries has diminished significantly since the days of the last Chief Executive. In April, Scrutiny will be examining Suffolk Circle, and has launched a survey to see how effective their favourite Demand Responsive Transport is in real life. Follow the link and tell them like it is before 20 April:

SCC Pay policy Suffolk County Council recently published details of its Pay Policy (as now required by law). Amongst the facts and figures that you may find interesting :

  • In 2011 SCC agreed a (downward) revised salary level of £155k for the Chief Executive post. It is a spot salary meaning it doesn’t attract incremental progression. There are no additional bonus, performance, honoraria or ex gratia payments.
  • Salary structure for Directors ranges from £98,393 to £126,733. New appointments to this level are on a “spot salary” basis and will not attract incremental progression. There are no: overtime, flexi-time, bank holiday working, stand-by paymentsetc. paid to these senior staff:  they are expected to undertake duties outside their contractual hours and working patterns without additional payment.
  • The salary ranges for Assistant Directors and Senior Managers are as follows: Assistant Director (higher) – £85,795 – £96,824 Assistant Director – £ 68,096 – £83,829 Senior Manager – £55,287 – £64,399
  • Rest of the workforce: eight grades ranging from £12,145 to £55,239. the lowest paid full time equivalent basic pay of £12,145 is used to determine the local definition of ‘low paid’.  There are 100 workers currently on this grade
  • The current pay ratio is 1:8.  This means that the Chief Executive (top earner) earns eight times more than the Council’s median earner (for which the rate is £19,621). When measured against the mean average, this ratio is 1:7; and when measured against the lowest paid it is 1:13.

Suffolk Circle At the meeting in April Scrutiny will be looking at the effectiveness of Suffolk Circle. This is a membership scheme for the over-60s piloted in London’s Southwark that the Conservative administration agreed to pay £600,000 over three years in the glory days of the last Chief Executive. According to Portfolio holder Colin Noble last week, after 2 years Suffolk Circle has attracted 372 members, meaning Suffolk has paid out something over £1000 per member.

Perhaps Scrutiny will be able finally to ascertain the rationale of why – at a time when SCC are cutting staff and  frontline services – SCC decided to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds  on transferring a Good Neighbours scheme (which you have to pay to join) from an inner city location with a high population turnaround and where there are comparatively few over-60s to a county packed with good neighbours who have a long tradition of helping each other for free! You can read more details about this decisionmaking elsewhere on this blog, including here

New Suffolk Care Homes provider The name of the provider taking over the running of  Suffolk 16 care homes and eight wellbeing centres will be announced at the Cabinet meeting on 17 April. As part of the process, bidders have been expected to prove they could ensure that enough specialist places for people with dementia and complex care needs are provided.

The new provider will take full ownership of all the care homes and well-being centres with staff currently employed by the council transferring to the new provider under TUPE regulations.

Demand Responsive Transport The Scrutiny committee will also be examining whether Demand Responsive Transport is providing an adequate service for the rural population of Suffolk in the light of further rural bus service closures.

In order to get a good picture of how these service are actually the Scrutiny Committee want to know whether people think it  works and how well, how provision of rural transport can be improved.

I would encourage everyone to fill this survey in – especially as only three weeks have been given for such a very important consultation – and these are over the holiday period. Last year I blogged on the difficulties of having only a non-existent DRT service over the holiday period . You can respond, either via  the link below or by post, or e-mail.

Online: http://www.surveymonkey.com/demandresponsive

By post, to The Chairman of Scrutiny Committee, Democratic Services, Suffolk County Council, Endeavour House, Russell Road, IPSWICH, Suffolk, IP1 2BX; or

By email to: committee.services@suffolk.gov.uk.

The deadline for the consultation responses is the 20th of April.

Co-op is funding Diamond Jubilee Street parties The East of England Co-operative Society are celebrating the Queens Diamond Jubilee by supporting members and customers planning local street parties through a one off, match funded grant of up to £100.  People need to apply right away. They will need to submit an event outline (100 words max) and be supported by three East of England Co-operative Society members. The street party must be taking place in the East of England Co-operative Society trading area of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

There are three ways to apply :

  • Complete an online entry form  or  Download an application form  via this link
  • Request a printed form from our Membership and Community Team on 01473 786068. Postal entries should be sent to – Diamond Jubilee Match Funding Application, Membership and Community, East of England Co-operative Society, Wherstead Park, The Street, Wherstead, Ipswich, Suffolk IP9 2BJ

Closing date for applications whether online or by post  is Monday, 23rd April 2012 with notification of whether you have been successful would be during the week commencing Monday, 7th May.

My next County Councillors Surgery Saturday 21st April, Woodbridge Library, 10-12 midday

Missing the Bus? Tell me about it!

Very important news for all Suffolk  bus users – particularly those in the countryside.

SCC is ‘consulting’ again  – and again giving minimal time over a holiday period for you to respond to important questions. This time its about whether their favoured  ‘demand responsive transport’ solution (that only benefits you if you don’t have to be anywhere by any specified time and don’t have  to go home again afterwards) is a good replacement for regular, reliable scheduled bus services.

I have given my view before in this blog : Demand Responsive Transport – the Limousine That Lets Us Down –  make sure you give them yours  via this link