Cllr Winship to present the final report of the bus links inquiry and recommendations to be referred to the Cabinet and Full Council.
The panel was due to meet on 23 April for a question and answer session with Cllr Quaile, Cabinet Member for the Environment.
Cllr Winship, inquiry chairman, presented the final report for the bus links scrutiny inquiry as at the agenda. She outlined the background, emphasising paragraph 1.3, page 24, which explained the change in direction for the inquiry.
She highlighted the efforts of councillors in undertaking research for the inquiry and the issues over vehicle reliability. The inquiry had taken written evidence from various sources.
The panel had questioned the community transport providers, who had requested support and help in marketing their services, in particular the fact that they were not just for older or infirm people, but for anyone with as transport need. The panel had also heard evidence from Alan Barrett from Gloucestershire County Council and Lena Maller from the council's Community Engagement team. Lena Maller had emphasised the need for support in the expression of interest sent for lottery funding to help co-ordinate the work of the community transport providers.
The council had already put details of the community transport providers on the screens in the reception area and would add them to the transport page on the website.
Cllr Winship said that there was still work to do in pushing for information to be given to patients at hospitals and clinics regarding community transport at times when the ambulance service could not provide transport home. She was pleased that there was now a bus service to Lydney station four times a day and believed the here would be a need for that to be increased.
She explained that recommendation c) of the report regarding a request for ongoing updates on all changes as they happened was crucial, because the county council had not made decisions on all the routes; some were under revision.
Cllr Winship ended by emphasising the importance of appointing a transport champion, who would be able to devote adequate time to the role, suggesting that it be someone who did not already have major responsibilities.
Answering a question from Cllr Baynham, Cllr Winship said that park and ride links had not been within the scope of the inquiry.
Cllr Frankie Evans asked if there was a time limit for sending the letters mentioned in the recommendations.
The Solicitor to the Council replied that the letters would be sent within 28 days of the meeting, if approved.
Cllr Brian Edwards asked if the voluntary community transport providers were willing to work together.
Cllr Winship said that Bream Voluntary Car Service wished to continue as it was, but that the lottery bid would help all four to work together.
Cllr Davies emphasised the need to address the use of bus passes in Wales, as residents in his ward had to travel across the border to visit hospital and doctors' surgeries.
Cllr Winship acknowledged that this had been an ongoing issue for some time and had been raised at MP level. It was between the Welsh Assembly and Westminster. The transport champion and leader could make representations.
Cllr Burford suggested that the leader's letter mentioned in recommendation b) should also be sent to the Welsh Assembly and Westminster.
Cllr Davies added that it should also go to Monmouthshire.
Cllr Bevan commented that there was a complication around cross-border acceptance of bus passes, because Monmouthshire used smart card readers, whereas Gloucestershire did not yet have that capability.
The committee agreed with Cllr Smart that it was still worth writing the letter to all concerned.
The committee agreed to amend recommendation b) of the report to read as follows.
That the Leader of the Council write to the Leader of Gloucestershire County Council, the Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, the relevant minister of the Welsh Assembly and of the government in Westminster urging them to improve the integration of transport provision throughout the district and cross-border
RESOLVED - to agree the final report of the bus links scrutiny inquiry and pass on the following recommendations to the cabinet and Full Council.
a) Given the crucial importance of transport to the community of the Forest of Dean and its current inadequacies, the panel strongly recommends that the council appoint a transport champion at the earliest opportunity, with the role as defined below.
b) That the Leader of the Council write to the Leader of Gloucestershire County Council, the Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, the relevant minister of the Welsh Assembly and of the government in Westminster urging them to improve the integration of transport provision throughout the district and cross-border
c) That the Strategic Director write to the responsible officer at the county council asking them to update the transport champion on changes as they happen.
d) That the council ask parish councils to report bus timetable and reliability complaints to the relevant Community Engagement Officer for the transport champion to act on.
e) That the council write a statement expressing its full support for the Forest of Dean Local Partnership’s lottery bid (Reaching Communities) to fund the coordination and marketing of community transport in the district
f) That the council proactively support local people’s transport needs by providing details of community transport to council offices, leisure centres, libraries, local doctors’ surgeries and hospitals within the county
Role of the Transport Champion
1. To keep a watching brief on transport provision within the district.
2. To co-ordinate information supplied by parish councils and the Community Engagement Team
3. To encourage the use of bus services and community transport
4. To explore the possibility of installing cycle racks
5. To liaise closely with the county council’s Urban Transport Manager and attend transport meetings as necessary
6. To help the Community Engagement Team co-ordinate marketing and communication with the community
7. To involve other councillors in stage two of the lottery bid process or other ways forward if the bid does not reach that point.