To issue the required statutory notice of the intention to form an Enhanced Partnership (EP) for bus services in Kent.
Reason for the decision:
On 15 March, the Department for Transport published its wide-ranging National Bus Strategy entitled “Bus Back Better”.
It is a strategy which sets out ambitious goals. It is backed by £3 billion of investment across England and a commitment to repurpose current funding. It is aimed at seeing passengers benefiting from “more frequent, more reliable, easier to use, easier to understand, better coordinated and cheaper bus services.”
There is an expectation that local authorities will work closely in partnership with bus operators, particularly those with commercial services, to better integrate bus routes and ticketing to make travel easier for passengers.
Investment is expected to facilitate this including both revenue funding (for example for reducing fares and increasing bus services) and capital funding (for example for measures to improve bus operating speeds by reducing delays).
The strategy sets an ambitious timeline for Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) to comply with the strategy, which allows continued access to both current and future funding. Operators also need to co-operate with this process to retain their funding streams.
The required timelines to be met are as follows:
1. LTAs and bus operators must commit in principle to the introduction of EPs by 1st July 2021. An EP is an agreement between LTAs and bus operators to work together to improve bus services
2. LTAs are required to publish a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) by the end of October 2021. Guidance on the content of the BSIP is expected this month
3. The EP will be developed in line with the Statutory processes to achieve implementation of the EP Plan and EP Schemes by April 2022.
The National Bus Strategy effectively narrows the decision down to just two options. Firstly, to comply with the procedure and timescales set out by the DfT, or secondly, not to proceed with the BSIP and EP process. However, the latter course of action would put access to current and future government funding at risk; potentially £7m grant funding to KCC
• How the proposed decision meets the challenges in the Interim Strategic Plan:
The proposed decision supports the:
• Demand challenge to better understand and meet the long-term demand for transport
• Environment challenge to delivery net zero for Kent by 2050 and promote climate resilience
• Economic challenge to champion the green and rural economy to meet specific challenges that arise from living and working in rural communities.
Decision type: Key
Reason Key: Affects more than two Electoral Divisions;
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Division affected: (All Division);
Notice of proposed decision first published: 13/05/2021
Decision due: Not before 11th Jun 2021 by Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Reason: To allow the matter to be published for 28 days prior to decision, in accordance with legal requirements.
Lead member: Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Lead director: Simon Jones
Department: Growth, Environment & Transport
Contact: Philip Lightowler, Head of Public Transport Tel: 03000 414073 Email: Philip.Lightowler@kent.gov.uk Tel: 03000414073.
Financial implications: At this stage, there are no significant financial implications to KCC whilst plans are being developed. The BSIP is to be published by the end of October 2021 and will be subject to a further key decision before submission submitted to the DfT who will then advise Kent’s funding allocation. Once this is known, the EP can then be formed out of the BSIP action plans for introduction from April 2022. It is by that point that the Council will need to have committed to investment in the partnerships. Further papers will be submitted to Cabinet at appropriate points including proposals for KCC expenditure.
Legal implications: Once an EP Plan and Schemes are made by the Council, measures and facilities agreed by the authority will become a legally enforceable commitment. An Enhanced Partnership is a statutory scheme with a procedure that must be followed. Invicta Law will be commissioned to support the legal elements of the EP.
Equalities implications: There are no equality implications in entering into Enhanced Partnerships with local bus operators.