The KCC budget for 2022/23, as agreed at full council in February 2022, included a reduction in the net budget for supported buses of £2.2M net. To meet the revised net budget will require the current number of contracts to be reduced.
There are currently 129 contracts supported by the council. These contracts are a mix of support, either involving funding for a whole service or just specific journeys, for example on specific days i.e., Sundays.
The approach to identifying the contracts to be withdrawn has been to firstly to identify the anticipated costs for those current contracts expiring in 2022/23, to identify any service commitments taken on in 2021/22 (to protect school routes) and to identify any services/contracts where external funding i.e., S106 has come to an end.
Using the KCC supported bus service criteria, officers have 48 identified contracts to a value of £3M, which could be withdrawn.
The funding criteria prioritises services based on the day of the week they operate, journey purpose and the value for money, derived from a pound per passenger journey figure.
From April 2022, the budget for socially necessary bus services has been reduced from £6m to £3.8m. Not withdrawing service/and funding from other sources, to the value of £3m, would see the budget overspent.
As noted, in retaining the Kent Karriers, these will be funded from external sources.
KCC has been provisionally awarded £35m funding from the Government to support delivery of Kent’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP). The BSIP funding conditions preclude us from using the revenue funding element to support existing commercial / supported services, its focus is on future developments. However, we will review the potential to use BSIP funding to provide areas, which have seen service withdrawals, with new services, tailored to the changed travel market and which would be sustainable.
A condition of the BSIP funding is to “lock in” spend on bus services at 2022/23 levels for three years and so the decision in this instance will inform funding levels over this period.
The proposal, consultation process and EqIA have been reviewed by an external legal firm.
KCC’s Public Transport and the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport have paid close consideration to consultation feedback and the equalities implications of the proposals, including how the adverse impacts might be mitigated. As a result, the proposals have been revised to lessen the impact.
In considering the consultation, updating the EqIA and revising the proposal, the advice of the legal representative has been followed.
In particular, section of 63 of the Transport Act 1985 that requires that Local Transport Authorities are required “to secure the provision of such public passenger transport services as the council considers it appropriate to secure to meet any public transport requirements within the county which would not in their view be met apart from any action taken by them for that purpose”. To ensure KCC complies with this requirement, the proposals have been revised to retain the Kent Karrier services and service 208, where it was shown a commercial alternative was not appropriate.
As set out in 5.8, KCC Public Transport will continue to work with the Community Transport sector in Kent, to provide additional / alternative services supporting conventional bus services.
Services carrying children with a statutory entitlement to free transport to school under the Education Act are unaffected by these proposals, as where required alternative provision will be provided through dedicated contracted provision not open to the public.
An Equalities Impact Assessment (EqIA) was completed prior to the consultation which identified more significant and adverse impacts for users with the protected characteristics of; Age (the elderly), Sex (females), Disability and those with carer responsibilities.
The outcomes of the consultation re-enforced this understanding in identifying that these groups are more likely to be reliant on these services for their journey purpose and less likely to have access to alterative transport solutions. In addition, Age in respect of Younger Persons has also been identified as being more adversely impacted for the same reason and notably that these users are unable to legally drive as an alternative.
The retention of the Kent Karrier dial-a-ride services seek to mitigate the most acute impacts of service withdrawals and ensure some level of provision for all residents including those from protected groups.
KCC Public Transport will continue to work with the Community Transport sector in Kent, to provide additional/alternative services supporting conventional bus service.
Data Protection implications
There are no data protection implications associated with this decision and therefore no DPIA has been completed.
Decision type: Key
Reason Key: Expenditure or savings of more than £1m;
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Division affected: (All Division);
Notice of proposed decision first published: 17/06/2022
Decision due: Not before 18th Jul 2022 by Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Lead member: Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Department: Growth, Environment & Transport
A paper was considered at Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee on the 18 February 2022, on the proposed consultation to withdraw 48 supported services.
Public Consultation ran from 24 Feb 2022 until the 20 April 2022. The link to the consultation is www.kent.gov.uk/bussavings.
Financial implications: The withdrawal of these supported services will deliver a whole year saving of £3M.
Legal implications: The funding of supported bus services is discretionary. Within each supported bus contract, the council has the right to give notice on a contract, providing three months’ notice is provided. Notice to operators would be given in July, with services ending at mid-October 2022.
Equalities implications: An overall EqIA has been completed for the decision and individual EqIA completed for each service identified to be withdrawn. This EqIA has been updated following the public consultation.