Legal challenge to Department for Transport casts doubt on current arrangements for Community Transport provision for all local authorities

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We're working with the community transport sector to discuss a recent legal ruling with a view to finding a way to maintain these valued services.

This follows advice from the Department for Transport (DfT) that affects all local authorities.

The ruling has determined that going forward, local authorities cannot enter into certain contracts with transport providers unless they have particular operator licenses and related mandatory training certification.

This change is part of new guidance issued by the DfT, not a new law, that states previous DfT guidance issued was incorrect. Like many other local authorities that proactively redesigned their community transport provision, Suffolk acted on the previous guidance in good faith and is now considering what needs to happen next.

Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, Councillor James Finch said:

"I have spoken repeatedly about the value and importance this council places on connecting communities and the essential need of addressing the issues of rural isolation. We have successfully introduced an innovative community transport provision which this ruling could affect.

"At this stage the Department for Transport has made the decision to change their interpretation of the law and are going to launch a public consultation on how to implement the transition.

“Suffolk’s team is working hard to understand the implications and possible scenarios to consider how best to address these challenges. In 2016/17 there were 150,000 journeys as part of our Connecting Communities service. “We are meeting with other affected local authorities to share knowledge and to take a leading approach on how we manage any changes that affect our communities.”

Suffolk County Council currently has 40 related contracts with local providers for community transport. The majority of these contracts are set over five years and the overall cost is £1.3M per annum.