I have been contacted recently by constituents concerned about proposals from the Department for Transport (DfT) to change legislation, potentially affecting community transport organisations, who provide a vital service in our area and across the UK. They often provide a lifeline to people who, sadly, might otherwise be isolated.
Under EU regulations community transport operators have been considered exempt from the licencing requirements for commercial operators. This has meant that community transport groups that operate on a not-for-profit basis have been able to apply for permits to carry passengers in a bus or minibus without holding a Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence. However, concerns have been raised that some community transport operators are effectively competing with commercial operators, who are still required to hold a PSV licence.
As a result, the DfT has published draft guidance and a consultation designed to align domestic legislation and guidance with EU regulations.
I am aware that a number of organisations have voiced serious concerns that the proposed guidance could have a detrimental impact on the community transport sector, as providers may be required to obtain commercial driving licences for their drivers. I understand that this could have significant cost implications and could even result in not-for-profit organisations being unable to run their services.
I am concerned that the Government has mismanaged this situation and caused confusion in the community transport sector. In addition, I believe it is concerning that the DfT appears to have failed to differentiate between true commercial services and vital community services that fill gaps where the market is unable to deliver. I believe this mismanagement suggests a wider failure to take a strategic view of local transport policy and I would urge the Government to take a fresh look at community transport services.
The DfT has committed to publish a summary of responses to the consultation and present emerging findings before the Parliament’s summer recess. I hope the Government will outline steps to ensure the views and concerns expressed in the consultation are taken into account.