Welsh Government raises concerns about DfT Section 19 & 22 proposals

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Ken Skates AM, the Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, has recently written to Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani MP to voice the concerns of the Welsh Government in regards to the UK Department for Transport’s proposed changes to Section 19 and 22 permits.

While permits and licensing are not devolved issues, the Welsh Government is in charge of how community transport operates in Wales. It is therefore concerned about the impact that the proposed changes will have on hundreds of organisations across the country.

The Cabinet Secretary also announced that he will lead on a new integrated transport strategy over the summer and produce a White Paper to consult on bus services in Wales. He said it is his intention that community transport will be part of delivering that strategy.

In the letter, the Cabinet Secretary set out a number of reservations. He was concerned about the proposed definition of ‘commercial activity;’ few community transport providers in Wales provide transport as an ancillary service and it is ‘unrealistic’ to expect them to provide services entirely free of charge, meaning many organisations would not qualify for exemptions.

On the exemption that ‘any charge for service is substantially less than cost’, the Cabinet Secretary noted that ‘providing a service at less than cost is not sustainable.’

On the exemption that ‘services may be provided if there is no competition from commercial operators, the Cabinet Secretary noted: “In effect, public service vehicle operators are provided a veto to prevent community transport operators bidding, meaning that commercial operators are able to effectively dictate prices to the contracting local authorities having removed the only source of local competition.”

A Community Transport Association (CTA) spokesperson commented: “We welcome the Welsh Government’s contribution to this debate, and hope for continued dialogue to support the community transport sector, which must play a vital part in achieving the Welsh Government’s aims on integrated transport and a connected Wales.

“We look forward to working together to both address the problems of the DfT’s proposed changes in the regulatory regime, but also in positively building a community transport strategy for the future wellbeing of generations in Wales.”