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					OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

11 February 2009

Committee in Attendance:
Chairm an: Vice Chair: Comm ittee: Councillor Michael Brookes Councillor Mike Gilbert Councillors Gerry Clare, John Grant, David Lingard, Brian Rush and John Rylatt.

In attendance: Portfolio: Officers: Members: Richard Austin – Community Leadership and Regeneration. Director of Community Services and Democratic Service Officer. Councillor(s) Jim Blaylock, Anne Dorrian, Richard Leggott, David Owens and Raymond Singleton-McGuire.

PRELIMINARIES: 21. Apologies for Absence: Apologies were received from Councillor(s) Alison Austin, Elizabeth Barker, Martin Clarkson and Dave Hobson. Councillor David Lingard substituting for Councillor Alison Austin.

22. Declarations of Interest: Councillor Brian Rush declared an interest in Brylaine Buses in respect of his time as a Member of the BBI Party. It was noted that upon her invitation by the Chairman to comment on the subject matter, non committee member Councillor Anne Dorrian declared her interest in Brylaine Buses in respect of her time as a Member of the BBI Party,

23. Minutes: With the permission of the Committee, the Chairman noted and signed the minutes of the meetings held on the 15 January 2009 as a true record.

24. Public Questions: No written questions had been submitted to this meeting.

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AGENDA IT EMS:

25.

Into Town Bus Service Consultation.

Addressing the meeting the Director of Community Services explained why he had distributed a second questionnaire for Members referral, advising that it had just been issued by LCC and noting the fundamental changes referred to questions 3, 4 and 9. He also advised that the consultation would begin on Monday 16th February and that LCC had extended the consultation period by a further three days and it would now end on 11th March and not the 8th. Members were advised that the mechanism implemented by LCC for distribution of the questionnaire included face to face consultations; advertisements in the media; web site access; copies available at BBC reception and on the actual buses. All LCC and BBC Members would be provided with their own form to complete. Once the consultation period had expired and all the response had been collated, LCC would return and a further Overview and Scrutiny meeting would be scheduled to allow Members to respond to the results of the consultation. In respect of this meeting he stressed that Members were being given the opportunity to comment on the actual questionnaire, in their roles, acting on behalf of the authority. The comments would be taken to Cabinet to formulate the Authorities official response to LCC. Thanking the Director of Community Services, the Chairman reiterated the fact that the results of the questionnaire would be bought back to the Committee by Members of LCC. He stressed that the only requirement from the committee was to address the actual questionnaire and no other aspect of the service. Members were also advised that they were responding on behalf of the Authority and not as individuals in this instance. Open debate followed in respect of the questionnaire with general comments including: If the results of the questionnaire returned a response that advised the service was too expensive, w hat responses were to hand and who would take the reduction cost, should the ticket price be reduced? Concerns should be raised that questions were being asked without answers being in place to resolve any outcome. The answers to the ‘Value for Money’ question would be subject to opinion of the person completing the form: concessionary bus pass holders more than likely would think it good value; a fare paying passenger may think it expensive and a local rate payer who is not served by the service, would probably think it not. Members were also concerned that in line with this the majority of responses would be from concessionary pass holders and therefore the questionnaire would not return a true response. Referring to the Director of Community Services advice in respect of the ‘distribution’ of the questionnaire, Members asked that it be circularised to allow access by all rate payers within the Borough: especially those in the rural areas who contributed through their rates, but had no benefit from the service. It was noted that Parish Councils; mobile libraries; village post offices; schools and social clubs could be used as distribution outlets for the questionnaire. A Member also requested information on the population of each individual ward; what, if any, ‘Into Town’ service it received and the figures for use on these routes.
Giving an opinion as an Authority in respect of ‘value for money’, Members expressed strong concerns at the lack of accuracy of validation of the service. The information received to date gave them no confidence to offer an informed opinion in their roles as Councillors.

Following on from the above point It was noted that Members were very sceptical in respect of the information being provided relating to actual usage or the service. Members needed full validation of the figures and it was noted that a Member had requested a full audit of the service at a recent Council meeting: the requested had been voted on and agreed by Members but to date, no report had been produced. Members were advised that NCL, who provided the figures for the service, had agreed to present the model they use to Members in the near future, to allow a clearer understanding of their system.

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Having noted the figures in point 2.0 of the report which appeared contradictory, Members were advised that a standard journey was charged at £1. However, the Portfolio Holder advised that in respect of concessionary fares the Borough were only charged a percentage figure and, although he did not have the actual figure to hand, he believed it to be in the region of £0.56p: the remaining cost of the fare being bourn by the service provider. (a point of correction was noted by a non committee member that the
figure of £0.56p was wrong and based on the information provided, the correct figure should be £0.67p).

Members also noted their confusion at the Portfolio Holders comments that he thought, although he did not have the actual figures, that out of an approximate figure of 25000 passengers, only 16000 were ‘Into Town’ passengers, the remaining 8000 or so using the National Service. A non committee member offered a correction, advising that the latest ‘Into Town’ figures for December were 23000 with 16000 of these being concessionary fare passengers. General concerns were noted that the questionnaire had been compiled without BBC being allowed to offer any input into it the document: most Members agreed that a draft should have been presented to the committee by LCC, prior to it being published and this committee should have been involved in the compilation of the questionnaire. The Director of Community Services reminded Members that he had circularised the questionnaire to them, requesting their comments: some Members had responded but not all. It was not LCC’s responsibility to request Member input. (The portfolio holder reminded the committee that
the purpose of Scrutiny was to look into anything a Member may have concerns about: In this case, had a Member had concerns when they received the Director of Community Services copy of the questionnaire, they should have requested it be taken to the committee, prior to it being published by LCC )

A Member also expressed concern at the inclusion of the word ‘Disbenefits’ in 13a of the questionnaire. The word appeared to have no meaning and as such reflected a poor image of the issuer. Questioning the publishing of the results of the questionnaire, Members were advised by The Director of Community Services that it was the decision of LCC whether or not to make public the findings. He would however make sure LCC were aware of the committees’ desire for the information to be published. In line with the final results Members noted that they would support the wishes of the constituents. Referring to the possibility of ‘Capping’ the service at a certain point within the budget, a Member asked that the principle of a cap be considered. Although aware it was a budgetary issue, it was worth noting that some of the £440000 budgeted could realise financial assistance in another area within the Authorities services. Members were advised that when considering capping of any kind they should remember that every individual was entitled to concessionary fares and it was a statutory right of the Borough to provide them. The portfolio holder confirmed that the mechanism in place at this time was one of restricting the hours of use of the pass: currently all journeys prior to 0930 hours were subject to a full fare charge of £1 with concessionary passes only being valid after this time. A Member noted they had witnessed late evening and early morning use and felt that the schedule at these times could be reviewed. Another Member noted that it was only an ‘experimental’ service which could, if it proved to be ineffective, be cancelled. An alternative suggestion made by a Member asked why LCC could not take over the BBC grant to allow them to manage the service themselves. At this point in the meeting the Chairman noted that he felt the Committee had focused on ‘budgetary’ issues sufficiently and that the remaining issues within the questionnaire should be addressed: Referring to question 9 Members noted that extensions of the service should included routes to Tesco; the PRSA and Johnsons Garden Centre. It was confirmed that a service into Fishtoft did exist which allowed access to Playtowers and the Boston Bowl. Commenting on question 12 Members noted differing views: some had been made aware of comments by the public which said they felt unsafe when the buses were passing through the area and that people had been ‘clipped’ by the buses. Others noted it was a mild inconvenience when the bus passed through and some had no opinion at all. It was agreed that Members would support the outcomes of the survey which would determine both the publics’ and the traders’ reactions to the service running through Strait Bargate.

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Confirming he had been vociferous in his earlier opposition and protests of the service running through this specific area, a Member asked it be noted he was not against the bus service itself: whilst initial surveys had indicated a 90% negative response he acknowledged that peoples perception may have changed: he was however concerned that should the outcomes once again realise a resounding rejection of this routing through Strait Bargate, that no other alternative routes appeared to be in place
(Similar comments were noted later in the meeting from a non committee member who confirmed that whilst against the service running through Strait Bargate, she was not against the actual bus service itself)

Considering Questions 14, 15 and 16 collectively it was agreed that traffic flows had improved as a result of the traffic lights being turned off at the roundabouts with journey times from ATS to the Pilgrim improving significantly. However problems remained at Carlton Road Roundabout and the traffic lights at Aldi, which still meant long journey times from town to Tesco’s. A non committee Member noted his concern that the latest survey had taken place late in the afternoon and during the school holidays: not necessarily a time most reflective of the ‘average’ usage of the route. It was suggested that a further question be raised which asked “has the Into Town Service had an impact on improvement in traffic flows?” Moving to question 18 it was suggested that a further option of texting be included in respect of receiving information. This option could also have been used in the distribution of the questionnaire. Recommendations: That in respect of the questionnaire produced by Lincolnshire County Council relating to the Into Town Bus Service, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommend to Cabinet that: 1. In light of the Committees concerns and lack of confidence in the validation of the usage figures, together with their confusion in respect of the cost of on the concessionary fares, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee offer no recommendation in respect of point 3 in question 3, ‘The service offers value for money’. It is suggested that the full audit requested at Council be actioned and tabled, prior to Cabinet making a response to this specific question. Population data be sourced for each Ward within the Borough. Levels/routes of ‘Into Town’ service (if any) be established within each Ward and validated figures for concessionary and non concessionary use for each route be determined. This information to be produced in report form, for all Members. The views of all rate payers are considered and the questionnaire be taken out into the rural communities with distribution via mobile libraries; parish councils; schools and post offices. Consideration is given to the suggestion that the current BBC grant be handed over to LCC to allow them to provide the service. Texting is considered as a form of information distribution. LCC be asked to publish the results of the questionnaire. Members receive a full presentation by NCL in respect of the model they use for monitoring and provision of usage figures for the service, preferably prior to LCC returning to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee with the results of the questionnaire.

2.

3.

4. 5. 6. 7.

Thanking Members for their attendance the Chairman closed the meeting at 2025 hours.

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