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Reviews Launched Into North Yorkshire Rural Transport Provision

Reviews Launched Into North Yorkshire Rural Transport Provision

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Stuart Minting at 11:36am 31st October 2019.

Reviews of a local authority’s actions towards meeting the transport needs of rural communities have been launched after the same council unveiled a commission to tackle rural issues such as lack of access to transport.

North Yorkshire County Council transport department has been asked to provide reports on how it has complied with its legal duties to identify communities’ transport needs and specify how it had spent government grants given to develop innovative transport solutions.

Members of the authority’s transport, economy and environment scrutiny committee had heard senior officers and the council’s transport boss Councillor Don Mackenzie mount a vigorous defence of its public transport efforts.

The meeting saw campaigner and former transport firm boss Barry Connor outline numerous concerns about the council’s approach to reviewing public transport needs.

He said:

“Financial costs assessments should come after the transport needs assessments have been completed.

However, the transport department consistently fails to acknowledge or undertake research before considering whether solutions are affordable.”

Mr Connor added lawyers consulted by his campaign group had advised the authority’s decision to cut bus service support by £1.1m in 2013 before consulting was “unfair and unreasonable”.

He also claimed the council had misused government grants of up to £832,000 given to innovate transport solutions to cover running transport services.

After the council’s assistant director of transport Ian Fielding offered to respond to Mr Connor’s questions with a statement, councillors asked for written reports detailing exactly how the authority had spent the grants, its rural transport strategy and what actions it takes to look at alternative transport solutions.

Mr Fielding said about half of the one of the grants had been spent on the project it was given for and the remaining grant money “was diverted to community transport” as the DfT had raised no objection.

He said:

“We are firmly of the view that we do comply with our legal duties and there has been no misuse or misappropriation of funding.”

The council’s transport boss Cllr Mackenzie said the authority had been proactive in assessing community needs by writing to parish councils and dismissed suggestions it should lead the development of alternative solutions.

He said:

“We rely on volunteers for many services. North Yorkshire County Council is one of the best councils for having a committed group of volunteers who help us not in just this field.”

After the meeting the committee’s chairman Councillor Stanley Lumley agreed Mr Connor had raised “parallel issues” to those which the Rural Commission the council had launched this week was setting out to study.

At the launch of the commission, the council’s leader Councillor Carl Les highlighted rural transport issues as being among the most pressing challenges which would be examined.

Cllr Lumley said Mr Connor had raised some important points and had helped draw focus to rural transport access.

He said:

“We have certainly got confidence in our officers, but there is always opportunity to look at what we do and see if there are ways to improve that.”

 

 

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