Mr Lake, Member for Sevenoaks Rural South, Mr Rayner, Member for Malling West, Mr Whiting, Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste and Phil Lightowler, KCC Head of Public Transportation were present for this item.
1. Mr Lake introduced this item and set out the background to his request to place this item on the Scrutiny Committee agenda. This included the 5 most highlighted themes from the consultation being:
a. Impact on elderly
b. No Alternatives
c. New Developments/Social Housing
d. Social Isolation
e. Access to Work
2. Phil Lightowler set out the background to the Cabinet Member decision to implement changes to selected bus services in Sevenoaks from April 2019. This decision was based on the proposed reduction to Socially Necessary Bus Services (SNBS) of £455k. there was no statutory requirement for Local Authorities to provide funding for SNBS.
3. KCC had asked Go-coach to monitor capacity on the 404 service, there were standing passengers but this was not over capacity and it was usual for the Local Authority to maximise the full capacity of the vehicle. If more entitled children used the service this would be reviewed to ensure capacity. It was accepted that this was a sensitive issue which had impacted some people, KCC’s approach had been to make a saving for KCC that had the least impact and was mitigated by other services being present.
4. Members asked whether the survey would be reviewed in the summer as this was undertaken in the winter, Phil Lightowler stated that KCC had not received complaints from schools or parents about capacity issues. However Inspectors were sent out often to review services.
5. A Member considered that there was a need to look closely at the whole bus network.
6. In response to a query about how children were impacted Phil Lightowler explained that the data for September starters was available, this would be combined with current loadings which would indicate if there was sufficient capacity.
7. A Member commented on the changes made to the bus service in Thanet, there had been no complaints about the commercial route that had been put in place. There were concerns that there might be a need for a rethink of transport for children.
8. The Cabinet Member concurred that there was a need to review and to be more efficient around spending the available money. There was a cross-party member group looking at bus transport.
9. There was uncertainty about how the feedback from the pilot schemes was being used, was there an intention to develop a taxi service?
10. Referring to community transport options only one Tonbridge and Malling Parish Council had put forward an application.
11. The Chairman asked Mr Lake whether he was satisfied with Phil Lightowler’s suggestion that he reviewed routes over the next couple of weeks and reported back. Mr Lake confirmed that he welcomed the continuing conversation and would very much like to explore further the taxi service.
RESOLVED that Mr Whiting and Mr Lightowler be thanked for attending the meeting to provide information and answer questions and that no formal comments be issued by the Committee.