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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 19/06/2006
Waverley Hoppa Community Transport - Progress Report



APPENDIX F
Waverley Borough Council

COMMUNITY OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY Committee
- 19TH JUNE 2006
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Title:
WAVERLEY HOPPA COMMUNITY TRANSPORT – PROGRESS REPORT
[Wards Affected:All]
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Summary and purpose:

This is a progress report about the work of Hoppa following the Council’s injection of a one-off revenue grant for 2006/07. The Council gave Hoppa a number of targets so that it can work towards a level of financial sustainability.

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Environmental implications:

Hoppa is contributing to attempts to reduce the number of private cars on the roads by providing bus services to socially excluded members of the community.

Social / community implications:

Hoppa is providing socially necessary door-to-door transport for mobility-disadvantaged sections of the community, including those living in the rurally isolated parts of the Borough. These services are used to access and education opportunities, health related destinations as well as other essential services.

E-Government implications:

There are none arising from this report.

Resource and legal implications:

The Council is providing Hoppa with a revenue grant for 2006/07 of up to 125,000. Community Transport schemes are never self-financing and so it is likely that Hoppa will need to look for revenue support in future years from 2007/08. Should Members take the decision that Hoppa requires additional future funding there will be resource implications for the Council.

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Introduction

1. In September 2005, this Committee received a report highlighting the gap in Hoppa revenue funding anticipated in 2006/07. At that time Hoppa was coming to the end of its three-year revenue funding agreement with the Countryside Agency. It had previously been reported to the Council that the Countryside Agency funding had always been time limited.

2. The September 2005 report led to further discussions between Hoppa and the Council. The Council agreed that, subject to a satisfactory Business Plan, a one off grant of 125,000 should be awarded for 2006/07. The Business Plan was submitted to the Council in February 2006 and meetings have been set up between Finance officers, the Rural Transport Partnership Officer and Hoppa in order to ensure that targets and performance are monitored.

3. In order for Hoppa to become less reliant on public subsidy, it was clearly necessary for the organisation to increase levels of self-generated work. Indeed, this is something the Council stipulated when awarding the grant.

4. The Hoppa Business Plan identified a number of new initiatives that would increase turnover in the current financial year and beyond, and a figure of 90,000 of gross income from new business opportunities was identified. This figure has already been achieved through the areas of work outlined below, however it must be noted that this is gross income; only a small percentage of this income will be classed as surplus over the costs associated with providing that particular service.

5. In order to generate more income, the Hoppa Business Plan indicated that there would be an increase in fares of approximately 17%, commencing 1 April 2006. These were implemented with little criticism or loss of patronage.

6. The age and quality of the Hoppa vehicle fleet was highlighted in the Business Plan, with the need to address this a matter of some urgency.

Free Bus Travel for People Aged Over 60 and People with a Disability

7. There had been some concern expressed over the introduction of Free Local Bus Travel for people over 60 years of age and for disabled people. This nation-wide scheme commenced on 1 April 2006. However, early indications suggest that the effect on Hoppa passenger numbers has been negligible as users/passengers of Hoppa tend to need the door-to-door service provided by Hoppa – because of their age, frailty or disability, and offers a distinctly different type of service to the conventional bus services on which people are entitled to use with free travel passes.

8. In Farnham, however, the picture is slightly different. Surrey County Council, as part of a Surrey Student Transport initiative, has introduced a ‘Demand Responsive Bus Service. People eligible for Free Bus Travel can use this service and are doing so.

New Initiatives

9. It must be noted that all new initiatives are not detracting from the core Hoppa services, but are aimed at adding value to the organisation by using existing resources in downtime or will include additional vehicle and driver resources.

Special Educational Needs Transport (SEN)

10. Hoppa has won two contracts to provide this transport service, with the expectation that more are likely to follow via Surrey County Council’s newly formed Transport Co-ordination Centre. These services utilise vehicle downtime (early morning and late afternoon) and so costs are marginal and surpluses high.

11. Hoppa is in discussion with Social Services with a view to providing journeys for their clients cross-border from Waverley into Guildford.

Haslemere Age Concern Mini-bus

12. Haslemere and District Age Concern has handed over its minibus to Hoppa and Hoppa is now fulfilling all of the Centre’s transport needs. There has been as substantial increase in the fare revenue of the Haslemere Hoppa Shoppa and in addition the Haslemere vehicle is available for Hoppa to use on other services when it is not undertaking work for the Centre.

Farnham Hospital Hoppa

13. The Hospital Hoppa concept, which has been successful on the Haslemere – Godalming – Guildford corridor, is to be extended to Farnham commencing September 2006. Farnham Town Council and other local grant-giving bodies are funding a pilot project for six months to April 2007, when it is hoped further funding can be secured.

Haslemere Hospital Hoppa

14. For the second year of the Haslemere Hospital Hoppa, the service continues and has proved an important transport link for a significant number of people. Since the start of the service in June 2005, 1,685 journeys have been undertaken.

Replacement Vehicles

15. As highlighted above the Business Plan identified an urgent need to seek capital funds to begin replacing some of the current fleet of vehicles. Hoppa, along with the Council’s Rural Transport Partnership Officer, has been involved in discussions with Surrey County Council officers to identify possible sources of County funding. To this end 200,000 per annum of Local Transport Plan capital funding will be made available for organisations within Surrey such as Hoppa who provide Demand Responsive Transport services. Although this money will be awarded through open competition it is hoped that Hoppa will benefit from a share of the money.

Funding Applications

16. Applications for both capital and revenue funding are in the process of being submitted to both Surrey Community Foundation and the Big Lottery.

Journey and Membership Growth in 2005/06

17. Both the total number of journeys and the number of individuals and groups who are members of Hoppa continue to increase.

18. Although the total number of journeys in 2005/06 was not as high as predicted, this was largely due to a small degree of double counting on some types of journey in previous years which gave an inflated total figure. This database error has been discovered recently and total numbers adjusted accordingly. As a result the total number of journeys increased from 41,443 in 2004/05 to 47,756 in 2005/06, a 15% increase. Of this number 4,900 journeys were made by wheelchair users.

19. Total membership of Hoppa, including individual users and affiliated local voluntary groups and organisations, stands at 2,191, an increase of over 700 from the previous year.

Conclusion

20. The Council decided that, when awarding its one-off revenue grant to Hoppa for 2006/07, it wanted to make plain its desire to see Hoppa making greater strides at seeking other sources of funding and looking for revenue generating work to help make the organisation more self-supporting. Much progress has been made in this regard.

21. Nevertheless, it has always been recognised that community transport initiatives do not make profits or surpluses and nearly always require a revenue subsidy. Whilst Waverley has been fortunate in recent years that much capital and revenue funding has been secured from non-Council sources to support Hoppa, these streams of funding are no longer readily available.

22. Over the last year, Hoppa has achieved much new work and there is optimism for assuming that more will follow in due course. However the income arising from these new services will generate a surplus, they are not going to generate enough of a surplus to make Hoppa self-funding. Therefore it should not be assumed that Hoppa will be self-sufficient in 2006/07 or indeed in future years. The reliance on the funding awarded by Waverley Borough Council and Surrey County Council is reducing but it is unlikely that Hoppa will be able to generate sufficient new business to make the organisation self sufficient.

23. Hoppa is clearly demonstrating its commitment to attracting more new business and generating increased additional income. Much of this additional work has been through the award of contracts i.e. in the commercial marketplace. Although Hoppa as an organisation is streamlining its operation, so as to be able to compete with other operators, there is always the risk that such contract awards will dry up.

24. The more socially necessary services operated by Hoppa, i.e. the Shoppas and the Hospital Hoppas, are by their nature the services which cost the most to operate and which raise the least amount of revenue. These are the core services which were identified as those most needed when Hoppa was set up by the Borough and County Councils in 2000/01and which need to be ‘cross subsidised’ by the more commercial ventures and by ongoing support from the local authorities, including Waverley.

25. Most other local authorities across Surrey support community transport initiatives in their area with revenue grants.

Resource Implications

26. If Hoppa is to continue to operate into 2007/08 and beyond, it will require a continuation of revenue funding. It would be helpful, when preparing the revenue budgets for 2007/08, to have an indication from members whether the Council wishes to support Hoppa into the future. This would enable officers to make provision when drafting the Council’s revenue budget for 2007/08 and for Hoppa to plan for its future with some confidence.

27. It is likely that Hoppa will require something in the order of 80,000 revenue funding for 2007/08. The Director of Finance is due to meet with Hoppa in the next few weeks to explore with them further about their financial needs for 2007/08 and beyond. It is therefore expected that officers will be able to provide a better estimate of Hoppa’s revenue support needs to future meetings.

Recommendation

It is recommended that:-

1. the Committee notes and welcomes the ongoing progress made by the Hoppa and the initiatives it is undertaking to achieve long term sustainability;

2. the Committee acknowledges the need for ongoing financial support for Hoppa from Waverley Borough Council, albeit at a likely reduced level to that of the current financial year;

3. the Committee receives a further report later in 2006 when it will be clearer exactly what level of additional funding Hoppa has been able to generate and as a consequence how much funding is required from the Borough Council.

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Background Papers (DoH)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

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CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Clive Parkinson Telephone: 01483 523037

E-mail: cparkinson.@waverley.gov.uk





Comms/o&s2/2006-07/021