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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 05/02/2008
Concessionary Fares



APPENDIX L
Waverley Borough Council

EXECUTIVE – 5th FEBRUARY 2008

Title:
CONCESSIONARY FARES

[Portfolio Holder: Councillor Munro – Community,
Partnerships and Enhanced Two-Tier Working]
[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and purpose:

This report advises about progress being made in respect of the introduction of the new national Bus Concessions from April 2008.


Environmental implications:

The use of public transport helps reduce congestion and fuel consumption in private cars.

Social / community implications:

Free bus travel for people aged over 60 and those who are disabled helps to promote better access to services and reduces isolation.

E-Government implications:

The Council will be using a web-based data management system. The Smartcard technology attaching to the cards provides the opportunity for the Council, and its partners, to develop smart enabled services (eg Library cards; Leisure etc) in the future.

Resource and legal implications:

At this stage, the expenditure in respect of the implementation phase will be covered by grant funding from the Department for Transport. There is, however, much greater uncertainty about the funding of the on-going free travel service.

Background

1. At present people aged 60+ and those who are disabled are able to apply for a Concessionary Bus Permit, which allows free travel on local buses in the county of Surrey.

2. In 2006, the then Chancellor announced the Government’s intention to extend the scheme so that permit holders would be able to use their Permits on local bus services across the whole of England from April 2008. Since that time the Department for Transport has been making arrangements with Transport Concession Authorities to deal with the implementation and practicalities associated with this initiative. Borough and District Councils, such as Waverley, are Transport Concession Authorities.

3. The Department for Transport has announced that as from April 2008:

there will be a uniform standard Bus Permit so that bus companies will be able to readily recognise the card across England, and these will be issued by TCAs;
that the Permit will have to contain a photograph of the Permit holder;
the Permit must have ‘smartcard’ capacity (i.e a chip);
Transport Concession Authorities will have to create and maintain a database in a prescribed format, including a photographic image of each applicant; and
that the Government will make some financial contribution towards the costs associated with implementation in the first year.

Practical Implications

4. At present all the Permits issued by local authorities across Surrey are made of laminated thin cardboard, and do not contain a photo or smartcard technology. In 2007/08 there were some 16,000 Permits in circulation in Waverley.

5. There are significant practical implications arising from this new initiative and in summary these are:

contacting 16,000 current applicants to renew the Permits and request a photograph;
procuring a new DfT compliant database and populating it with each applicants information and photograph (i.e. scanning in the image);
procuring card production;
issuing some 16,000 cards to Permit-holders; and
on-going data management (i.e. adding new people who are eligible and deleting those who have died) and issuing of cards to new applicants.

Procurement

6. The Department for Transport undertook an exercise of setting out “Framework Agreements” with potential suppliers during the summer of 2007 in order to assist local authorities and reduce duplication of this process by some 291 local Transport Concession Authorities.

7. The Department for Transport effectively vetted and then contacted potential suppliers of:

I. Data Management
II. Card Production
III. Hardware suppliers (for those who want to buy machines that overprint smartcards for in-house production) and
IV. Monitoring of the Smartcard useage (processing of smart transactions)

8. At this stage Waverley only needs I and II above, and possibly III. There is no need for item IV (for the processing of Smartcard transactions) because the bus companies in Surrey do not have smartcard readers on their vehicles at this time.

9. The Department for Transport stated that its “framework agreement will be set-up to allow authorities to procure all the services needed in order to take part in a smartcard scheme. Other than setting up the framework, the Department for Transport will not be further involved in the procurements, meaning that you are free to get on with setting up your scheme. All of the lots have been created to allow you to contract directly with pre-vetted suppliers at pre-agreed rates. So you do not need to go through your own European procurements (unless you want to). Given the tight timescales, we recommend that you get everything ready as soon as possible."

10. Therefore officers exercised their delegation in accordance with CPR C101 whereby the approval of the (then) Director of Finance was obtained to allow use of the Department of Transport’s framework contracts.

Progress to date

11. Waverley has been working with other local authorities in Surrey in respect of procuring new cards and services, using the DfT’s Framework contract. Having undertaken a comparative analysis of the costs, services and the expertise and experience of the organisations, officers have decided that Novacroft will be the supplier for Waverley. The reasons for this decision are as follows:

a. Novacroft already has experience of providing cards and data-management for all of the Scottish local authorities, which are already operating a smartcard bus permit for Scotland;
b. Novacroft is the provider of the Oystercard for London;
c. Novacroft is the only provider that deals with the whole process in-house;
d. Novacroft have given the Council a competitive price for the production of cards and related services;
e. Novacroft have offered a further discount on card production should (as is being planned) other Surrey local authorities contract for the provision of more than 50,000 cards; and again at 100,000 cards.

12. The other Surrey local authorities that have announced their intention to work with Novacroft include: Mole Valley, Runnymede, Spelthorne, Surrey Heath, and Woking. Along with Waverley this means that some 80,000 cards are being commissioned from Novacroft by Surrey authorities.

13. Waverley has placed an order with Novacroft and an indicative timetable has been agreed viz:

ensure the database is completely up to date (as at mid-November 2007);
importing Waverley’s bus permit database into a new format database in line with the DfT requirements;
write to all the current permit holders requesting a new application form be returned to Waverley with a passport photograph (December 2007);
Novacroft with update the new database with any changes arising from the applications and will attach digital photographs to each record;
Card production (end of January 2008) [NB WBC has had to book a place in the queue – there are up to 291 TCAs doing this work at the same time!];
Undertake a second check of the database (late February 2008); and
Cards posted to applicants (during early March 2008).

14. Although this seems a relatively simple process, it is in fact a large logistical undertaking.

15. Arrangements are being made for new applications being made from mid-March 2008.

Resource Implications

16. The DfT has agreed to pay all TCAs 4 per current permit plus a 20% uplift in order to contribute towards the setting-up costs of the new Bus Permit smartcard requirements. For Waverley this will amount to a one-off grant of 77,784 (16,205 x 4 plus 20% uplift). This full sum has been paid to Waverley by the DfT.

17. It is anticipated that the DfT funding will be sufficient to cover the costs of the initial setting up of the new Smartcards for existing permit holders. The DfT, however, is not proposing to fund the costs of new permit holders.

18. The bigger resource issue, which remains unresolved as yet, is the costs of reimbursing the bus companies on a ticket based ‘revenue forgone’ basis, rather than a mileage basis at present. The DfT has not yet determined how it will allocate revenue funding for these costs and so it is difficult to quantify the resource implications for Waverley at this time. This will be a subject of a separate report in due course.

Conclusion

19. The introduction of a bus permit to be used for free bus travel across England on local bus services is to be welcomed. However, this has given rise to a large logistical exercise and has provided a level of uncertainty in relation to the costs of the new scheme and the funding provided by the Government to support its on-going costs. Waverley appears to have been fortunate thus far in that the setting-up costs are being met by the DfT; the longer term prospects for revenue funding of the scheme are much more uncertain.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the action taken to implement the new national concessionary fares scheme be noted.

Background Papers (DoHC)

Papers from the Department for Transport.

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: John Swanton Telephone: 01483 - 523375
E-mail: jswanton@waverley.gov.uk


Comms/exec/2007-08/228