New rules will make sure people using community transport buses in Cambridgeshire are eligible

PUBLISHED: 15:51 07 January 2019

An independent report commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council into the running and awarding of home to school contracts to Fenland Association for Community Transport revealed major issues over procurement, membership numbers and cross subsidisation of commercial and community contracts. Picture(s): Archant

An independent report commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council into the running and awarding of home to school contracts to Fenland Association for Community Transport revealed major issues over procurement, membership numbers and cross subsidisation of commercial and community contracts. Picture(s): Archant

Archant

New rules are being put in place for community transport following a £200,000 investigation that drew up 50 recommendations to make it fit for purpose.

The inquiry was authorised and funded by the county council who have now drawn up criteria to ensure proper use of community funded transport.

A set of five principles look set to be approved to make sure passengers using community transport buses are eligible.

They include having little or no access to public transport and difficulty using public transport.

The list of new rules is to be presented for approval to county councillors on the economy and environment committee this week (Thursday 10).

Graham Hughes, executive director, said: “The current eligibility criteria used by community transport operators in Cambridgeshire is inconsistent both between schemes and against the requirements of the grant agreements.”

The new rules are being proposed following an investigation into March-based FACT, which also oversees Ely’s community transport scheme ESACT and Huntingdon’s HACT.

Once the inquiry published its findings FACT manager Jo Philpott left and in recent weeks other associated with the organisation have also gone. They include former chairman Charlie Jenkins, former secretary Barry Howlett and most recently Councillor Kit Owen. It was Cllr Owen who had defended Ms Philpott throughout the inquiry and later became chairman of one of the FACT sub committees.

Last year a ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy was placed on FACT to ensure compliance with an enhanced regulatory regime.

It was part of a package of 19 reforms put in place by the county council following the report into their management and operations.

Known as the PKF report, it led Ms Philpott being forced out of her job, amid the discovery that many of the rules governing charitable and not for profit organisations failed with withstand external scrutiny.

The new rules to be presented to county councillors will make sure that passengers using community transport buses are entitled to do so.

The committee will be asked to recommend that people prove they live in the area covered and that there is either no public transport or limited public transport.

If necessary they will be asked to show they have difficulty using public transport owing to a disability for which they must provide proof and difficulty using public transport due to other reasons including short term.

Mr Hughes said: “Officers have assessed he eligibility checks carried out by schemes in London, Hertfordshire and Richmond.”

He added that dial a ride services are a vital way of allowing communities where there are limited alternative forms of transport, to access services they need and is important for the overall health of the county.

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