Park & Ride Concessionary Bus Pass Consultation

Closes 31 Jul 2019

Opened 8 May 2019

Overview

Consultation on changes to the use of Concessionary Bus Passes on Essex County Council run Park and Ride services only from April 2020.

This consultation gives you the opportunity to let us know your views about the proposals.

[Find the link to share your views at the end of this page].

About Essex County Council

Our high ambitions for Essex and Essex County Council have begun to be achieved.

Despite the ever-increasing financial challenges facing us, we have continued to provide the services residents and businesses need.

What we do is driven by four strategic aims: enabling inclusive economic growth, help people get the best start and age well, help create great places to live, work and grow up, and transform the council to achieve more with less.

Our strong track record of financial management has enabled us to do this, operating within a legally required balanced budget.

Last year, that meant finding over £1 million a week in efficiencies, through innovating to continue to provide services at lower cost, with greater efficiency. Increasing this has meant investing in digital services and seeking to generate income.

We also continue to invest in Essex infrastructure, a key element in driving economic growth.

Even greater challenges

How we are funded is changing. By the end of 2020, our main grant – the Revenue Support Grant – will have been phased out entirely. This will mean a £46m reduction in 2019/20.

Our income will come entirely from council tax, business rates, grants which are specific to our services, and fees and charges.

As in previous years, we will aim to keep council tax as low as possible through generating income and revenue where people can afford to pay for services and where there is demand for them. Demographic changes – particularly an ever-aging, ever-growing population – which also create demand pressures, alongside inflation, also contribute to the financial pressures we face.

The combination of these factors means that, unless we think differently about the services we offer and how residents and businesses access them, we will not succeed in delivering our ambitions for Essex.

Unless we change, reform, transform, the services we are responsible for will stop keeping pace with what people need.

This means that, alongside those services which we retain and continue to invest in, or invest even more in than in previous years, some of them will change, and some of them will no longer be provided where they are now.

Increasingly, digital platforms offer us new ways of connecting with individuals and communities, and of offering services.

Leveraging the power of data to help us understand where the most pressing needs and the key challenges are, allied to new, more citizen-friendly ways of dealing with those needs through digital platforms is how we will develop our approach.

The way we shop, travel, work, learn and enjoy leisure time has been transformed over the past decade and the pace of change is ever increasing.

The information and analysis we now have at our disposal means we design services better for the present and the future. We need to make sure we seize that opportunity.

Why We Are Consulting

We are consulting on the use of the older person’s bus pass on County Council run Park and Ride services in Essex.

We are also consulting on making a reduced charge for people using the disability based bus pass before 9am on these services.

None of these proposals will affect the use of bus passes on normal local bus services.

The Essex Bus Pass Offer

Essex County Council (ECC) provides a bus pass in Essex to residents who are either:

a) Older people who meet the national state pension age – as on www.gov.uk/calculate-state-pension or

b) Disabled people who have one of the types of disability listed on the website: www.essex.gov.uk/buspass

What the law say we must do

The requirement set out in the Transport Act 2000  and Concessionary Travel Act 2007 is that Essex County Council must provide passes valid for journeys run between 9.30am and 11pm Monday to Friday and all day on weekends and bank holidays. This is called the “statutory offer”. Essex County Council currently uses its discretionary powers under the Acts to offer pass holders travel from 9am to Midnight Monday to Friday. We are not proposing to change this.

Essex County Council is also required to leave bus operators neither better nor no worse off than had the concessionary travel scheme existed. It does this by reimbursing the bus operators.

What else we do

Essex County Council also allows passes to be used on the three County Council operated Park and Ride schemes at Sandon and Chelmer Valley in Chelmsford and at the Colchester Park and Ride. These include the Broomfield Hospital shuttle bus service from the Chelmer Valley site. The extension of the scheme to allow pass holders to use Park and Ride schemes is estimated to cost taxpayers around £447,000 a year. It is this provision for concessionary travel on Park and Ride services which is the subject of this consultation.

The cost of concessionary travel to taxpayers: This year ECC will spend £18.1m per year of taxpayers’ money reimbursing operators for accepting bus passes.

Under the law, ECC has to leave them no better or worse off than they would have been if the scheme did not exist. The cost of the use of concessionary bus passes of all types on the park and ride services is around £447,000 of that £18m.

Why Park and Ride services are exempted from the legislation

Under the Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007 (as amended), the County Council is required to offer a pass that is valid on any registered local bus service operating within Essex unless it falls within a small number of exceptions. These are:

  • Services on which the majority of seats can be reserved in advance of travel (such as coaches);
  • Services that are intended to run for a period of less than 6 consecutive weeks;
  • Services operated primarily for the purposes of tourism or because of the historical interest of the vehicle;
  • Bus Substitution (rail replacement) services;
  • Services where the fare charged by the operator has a special amenity element.

Services in these categories automatically fall outside the statutory scheme.

The County Council considers that its park and ride services offer a special amenity as the fares include an element related to the provision of dedicated parking and other site facilities such as toilets and customer service and that as a result they are excluded from the statutory element of the Concessionary Travel Scheme.

Historically the Council has used its discretionary powers to include its park and ride services within the scheme allowing all pass holders to travel free after 9.00am. This has an estimated cost to tax payers of £447,000 per year.

Given the pressure on expenditure as explained above, the Council is now considering stopping accepting older people’s concessionary bus passes on the park and ride scheme and instead use its powers under the Transport Act 1985 to offer older people’s pass holders a £1.50 day fare.

This may mean that some passengers choose to cease using the park and ride scheme and we ask you about this later in this consultation. In turn this may mean that the current cost of the scheme to taxpayers would not translate directly into a similar saving.

NB. The information you provide as part of this questionnaire is anonymised and will only be used to analyse the public response to the proposals set out in this questionnaire. Your data will not be shared with a third party other than as strictly required to allow the analysis to take place.

ECC fully comply with information legislation. For full details on how we use personal data, please go to: www.essex.gov.uk/privacy or call 03457 430430.

Give Us Your Views

Areas

  • All Areas

Audiences

  • All residents

Interests

  • Public transport