The Labour Group at Suffolk County Council has successfully prevented the Tory administration from implementing a “New Model” for Rural Community Transport, with the decision having to be brought back to Cabinet after a vote at Scrutiny Committee.
The “New Model” advocates changes to the tendering process for community transport in Suffolk’s rural areas, and entails a drastic 50% reduction in funding over 5 years. Meeting this morning, the Scrutiny Committee voted in favour of referring the decision back to Cabinet for further deliberation on the grounds that there had been no public consultation process and that an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) was seriously flawed.
Leading the Labour line, Cllr Sandra Gage, spokesperson for Roads, Transport and Planning, argued that “Rural Transport is a critical service to much of our county and there has been no attempt to seek the views of the service users. Many of whom rely entirely on this transport, now at risk, to live independent lives in rural isolation”
“What is more, whilst the size of the budget was not stated in the Equality Impact Assessment, its radical 50% reduction, in terms of impact, clearly should have been. A cut of 50% of funding is a major risk to the continuation of rural transport for both the users and the providers”
“It is our contention that the fundamental assumption behind this decision – that you can rush through an overhaul of Community transport in Suffolk without a proper consultation process, as well as slash the budget by half without destroying the whole service – is completely wrong”
After heated debate, the Scrutiny Committee voted in favour of these arguments. The issue is now to be sent back for discussion at Cabinet on the 13th October.
Reasons for Scrutiny Committee decision:
- There has been no consultation process with community transport users, with particular regard to vulnerable and disabled users, in breach of the Equality Act 2010. Therefore, Cabinet do not have sufficient information to be able to take a viable decision
- The Equality Impact Assessment used in the decision making process to highlight the impact of proposed changes on the user looks at organisational/structural reforms to transport provision in Suffolk, but does not take in to account the effect or impact of the proposed 50% reduction in budget.
Scrutiny Committee Vote:
- For 5
- Against 4
- Abstain 2