DfT received 494 responses to the consultation
The Department for Transport (DfT) has released its interim summary of responses for the consultation of section 19 and 22 of The Tranport Act 1985.
The DfT received 494 written responses to the consultation which closed on 4 May, and over 550 people attended the workshops.
It specifically included within this sample responses from the Community Transport Association (CTA), the Mobility Matters campaign, the Bus and Coach Association (BCA), the Confederation of Passenger Transportation (CPT), the Association of Local Bus Company Mangers (ALBUM), the Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers (ATCO), the Local Government Association and the Traffic Commissioners of Great Britain.
The DfT believes that the themes in this sample are representative of responses as a whole and therefore the sample is sufficient to set out a broad policy direction. Responses included comments on the potential wider implication of the proposal in regard to driver training and licensing, and the lack of coverage of these issues.
Community transport operators and local authorities were concerned about the impact of the interpretation on the services they provide or have procured. Many people, including the CTA and ATCO, disagreed with the Department’s position that “non-commercial” does not necessarily equate to not-for-profit, and did not feel the case had been made to support the Department’s change of view.
Many community transport operators took the view that as ‘commercial’ meant having the intention to make profit, ‘non-commercial’ meant having the intention not to make a profit. Some respondents from the community transport sector said the guidance should be consistent with, and should provide examples relating to, areas of domestic charity and tax law. Many wanted the guidance to focus on the ‘purpose’ of the organisation as set out in its constitution given the reference to ‘purposes’ in the wording of this exemption in the regulation.
Others, particularly representatives of the commercial sector, were of the view that every organisation operating vehicles capable of carrying more than 8 passengers should be subject to the same rules
A number of respondents said that charging passengers for a service is ‘commercial’, regardless of not-for-profit status.
Many, including the CTA and Mobility Matters, also pointed out that charities are encouraged to charge for services on a full cost recovery basis. Some even quoted the Charity Commission guidance which says that charities should expect and negotiate for full cost recovery in any case where a public authority is purchasing a service from them.
A concern was that the requirement for the community transport operator to provide appropriate evidence that no commercial operators planned to bid for the local authority contract was unfair and gave commercial operators a competitive advantage by effectively giving them a veto. Many respondents thought that main occupation should be determined by reference to the community transport operator’s constitutional documents.
Most community transport operators commented on the fact that there should be different distance thresholds for rural and urban areas and gave examples of the distance of services that they run. Many thought that most community transport organisations are of a size and scale that has little impact on the national, or indeed, local transport market, and supported the Department’s intention to introduce this exemption.
Some thought that community transport services had a minor impact because no commercial operator wanted to run door-to-door services or due to the specialist nature of the work, equipment used, and training required. Others said users were often unable to use public transport so there would be no impact. The implication was that community transport does not attract passengers away from other forms of transport.
Many, including the Mobility Matters campaign, wanted the guidance to define what the ‘transport market’ was. Some, including the CPT, argued that each market should be considered on its own merits.
Over the coming months the DfT will be undertaking further work in order to determine the final approach to be taken to the guidance and draft regulations. This includes analysing all of the remaining responses over the summer.
Once all the responses have been analysed the summary report will be revisited to ensure all of the key points have been identified and reflected in the text. The analysis will then feed into revisions to the guidance explaining and interpreting the exemptions, the impact assessment and the draft regulations consulted on.
A local authority working group has been established to consider how the ‘non-commercial’ and ‘minor impact and short distance’ exemptions can operate within current procurement practices. The Office of the Traffic Commissioner and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency will be involved in these discussions.