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December 12, 2007

Threat to community transport provision

Scotland’s Community Transport Association has nearly 200 members who deliver 2.6 million passenger journeys per year, many in areas with no alternative transport. Director, John Macdonald, has concerns that the new funding (via councils) is not ring fenced.

Holyrood News

The director for Scotland of the Community Transport Association has said that his members are “uncertain” for the future, following proposed changes to their funding structures in the Scottish Government’s budget spending review announced last month.

John Macdonald said that the changes had “thrown everything up in the air”. Funding for community transport was to become the responsibility of Scotland’s seven regional transport partnerships (RTPs) from April next year, but the concordat between COSLA and the government plans for these funds to instead go to local authorities, where they would not be ring-fenced for transport.

Macdonald said: “It’s really close to the point in time when our members had hoped to know what the budgets were with the RTPs for next year, and what the decision making process would be as well.

“All that has been thrown out, and now the local authorities are going to be the key source of funds if the concordat is ratified, so at this time, things are up in the air, really for community transport, we’re uncertain as to what’s going to happen.

“The whole community transport network was very surprised. I think people were quite positive about the year ahead, but it’s all just changed now, and we’ve got a very short space of time, four months, before the change.

“There are some groups whose funding [through the Rural Community Transport Initiative (RCTI)] runs out in March who would be normally getting word now about carrying things forward from April 1, so we don’t know what’s going to happen, but it might affect these services. I know of at least 17 projects, in different parts of rural Scotland whose funding [will run out] out on 31 March, so they’re the most vulnerable ones.

“There are 2.6 million passenger journeys in Scotland each year by community transport and now we have to deal with 32 local authorities, and we have to rely on them being supporters of community transport.

“There were ring-fenced funds specifically for community transport from central government, now we could be caught up in the bun fight which will take place within individual local authorities, and that could have a knockon effect for people who are frail, disabled, live in remote rural locations and for whom the public transport system just does not work. For many community transport groups, this has been a bolt out of the blue for them.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have an historic agreement with COSLA, which will give local government record levels of funding to invest in local priorities. Reduced ring-fencing presents a unique opportunity; to have more freedom to invest in the transport projects expected by the communities they represent.

“Local authorities already know the value of their local community transport projects and will use this information when deciding whether new funding agreements should be offered.”