Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 16, 2018

Your Bus, If You Have One, Use It Or Lose It?

Or, under the LCC administration, you could have cause for optimism, they say! We West Lancastrians have heard it all before, as their party colleagues invented local social exclusion in 2011. Seven years have not dulled the memories of the despicable treatment of elderly and disabled people.

Who can forget this minuted response to the savage dismissal of discretionary options to the cancellation of the travel concession “Midstream  said community transport was the only suitable, affordable option for their members. If there were no concessionary fares from Dial-a-ride, it would have a devastating effect on individuals, whose only other option would be taxis, which are unaffordable. It would also have a devastating effect on Midstream”.

And how did Dial-A-Ride  react? “West Lancashire Dial-a-Ride said that removing them from concessionary arrangements would be very serious. Dial-a-Ride is used by 1,000+ residents who cannot access public transport and do not use a car. 97% of journeys are provided under the scheme (i.e. free or 50p) and without the concession, a significant number of residents would be unable to pay the fares. Dial-a-Ride would not be able to absorb the loss of revenue and the service would terminate; without inclusion in the NowCard scheme it would be unable to provide any services”.

So, being disabled and given a NowCard Bus Pass in 2011, there was barely a single bus running anywhere in West Lancashire that could take on board a wheelchair, and the WLBC social exclusion policy came into being. To deliver that policy of social exclusion they had ignored their own Equality Impact Assessment that stated “8.1 The Council has completed an EIA, which is attached as Appendix D to this Report. The EIA indicates that, were the discretionary elements currently offered to eligible residents not available in the future, there would be a differential adverse impact on elderly and disabled people within the Borough”. You might ask why WLBC ignored that phrase “there would be” leaving no doubt as to an “adverse impact on elderly and disabled people”. It was because that’s who they were and that’s what they did!

The result? “Resolved: That the Council cease all involvement in the area of travel concessions on the basis of the loss of funding for this function, the transfer of statutory responsibility to LCC and the wider impact of the challenging financial position the Council faces over the next few years, on the local community”.

The Lancashire Evening Post  “has highlighted an investigation into the nation’s shrinking bus services, the impact of budget cuts, and less funding to prop up non-profitable routes. Lancashire County Council’s lead for highways and transport Cllr Andrew Snowden said there should be a cause for optimism, however, with a number of services restored in December that will contribute to next year’s figures. Meanwhile, representatives have warned residents in rural areas whose services are under threat to “use it or lose it”, amid fears the falling levels of service will leave residents isolated. The figures reflect how funds for bus support services were cut from around £7m by Labour-run County Hall for 2016/17. The Conservative administration, voted in last year, has since upped the available budget from £2m to £3m. Cllr Snowden said “I’m confident the figures (of miles covered) will start to increase, testament to our election pledge that we have delivered on.

“It’s a big priority for this administration” said Cllr Snowden . I live in a rural area myself and I know how reliant communities can be on services, it may not be commercially viable because of the numbers using it or because of the distance the vehicle needs to travel, but it is still vitally important. “We are focused on tackling social isolation, improving connectivity and delivering value for money.” He added that County Hall continued to work alongside commercial providers to identify areas that have the most need for services. He said “We’re continuing discussions with bus operators in some areas of the county where we think value for money can best be achieved by extending an existing commercial service and hope to deliver a number of further improvements to the network.

“The providers are grateful we’ve put this money back in, they want to work with us to provide the best coverage.” The investigation, using Department for Transport information, found buses remain the most popular form of public transport. The total miles covered by both commercial and subsidised services in Lancashire has fallen by 17.6 per cent in the last four years. Subsidised services – those which require financial help from the local transport authority because they are not commercially viable – account for the vast majority of the 4.5m miles that have disappeared in the last four years, contributing 4.13m. In terms of passenger journeys, Lancashire has seen a decrease per head of population by 13 per cent since 2013, with the number of journeys reduced from 51.6m to 45.5m”.

The loss of decent transport has paled into insignificance by comparison with the flooding situation. It’s shameful, but not unexpected. In this borough, and this county, we have communities that flood, with raw sewage entering streets, gardens, and homes. And the people who complain are castigated as vexatious by the authorities. Well, if residents are habitually dealing with the effects of this filth in their homes surely senior and responsible management level officers can expect habitual and persistent complaints? Ah, they claim, complaints adversely affect our ability to do our job. One local authority not too far away has “a list of 15 matters that could cause offence to officers, and committing 2 of these criteria is vexatious. In such incidences, there may be a need to report this behaviour to the police”. That’s our “us and them” in a nutshell, “them management” enjoying salary packages of from £66,367 to £124,186 according to the last accounts, enough to sooth the rough days?

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