Statement: Community Transport Grants
Our response to a complaint relating to changes to community transport grants
A complaint made about West Berkshire Council to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has been partially upheld.
The complaint was made by a local charity following a reduction in community transport funding in the 2019/20 budget. The ombudsman found the Council at fault for failing to carry out a public consultation about proposed changes - but could not say if this would have led to a different decision. At the Ombudsman's request we have apologised to the charity and made a small payment to recognise the uncertainty caused from not carrying out a public consultation.
At the time we consulted with the Community Transport Operators and felt they were in a better position to contact their clients to gauge the impact of the funding reductions. We accept that giving the Operators more time to carry out this consultation, or carrying a separate public consultation may have been more appropriate. We therefore apologises for the fault in its decision-making process on this occasion. In relation to how complaints from the charity were handled by us the Ombudsman did not find any fault with how these were dealt with.
We value the views of local residents in helping to design and deliver services which meet their needs and helps to enhance their lives. This complaint relates to a decision made in 2018/19 and since then we've improved our engagement with local residents. A new Communications and Engagement Strategy was adopted in autumn 2019 which builds closer links between residents and the services they use. This includes:
- Planning consultation with stakeholders more effectively to ensure it is genuine and represents value for money
- Involving stakeholders more to help shape what we do, and increasingly what they and their communities do; and
- Collaborating more effectively to enable the development of effective engagement and the achievement of better outcomes.
We continue to support community transport schemes and has allocated £55,000 in funding this year to help local providers deliver services, as well as making grants totalling £50,000 available for specific projects each year. Community transport continues to be available across the district, and remains a valued service by those who use it. In the year before the pandemic (to March 2020) almost 60,000 journeys were made using community transport helping residents to do shopping, get to medical appointments and meet with friends.
Community transport is provided largely by volunteers and community organisations and we recognise the commitment of all those who help to provide these services. Over the past year we have seen communities come together to support one another, and we know that some residents are looking beyond Covid-19 and wanting to continue volunteering for the benefit of their communities. Anyone interested in volunteering as a driver can find out more on our website: https://info.westberks.gov.uk/communitytransportvolunteer
For more about community transport visit: https://info.westberks.gov.uk/communitytransport