To submit a report by the Head of Highways, Waste and Property.
The report of the Head of Service (Highways, Waste and Property) and the Director of Education Skills and Young People regarding the impact of the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) on the sale of vacant seats on school and college transport was presented for the Executive’s consideration. The report set out how the Authority proposes to address the impact of the regulations on its home to school transport provision.
Councillor R.G.Parry, OBE, FRAgS. Portfolio Member for Highways, Waste and Property reported that as from 1 January, 2020 PSVAR applies to all coaches with a capacity in excess of 22 seats and require vehicles to be accessible for disabled people. The Department of Transport offered an exemption certificate to exempt vehicles from those regulations until 1 January, 2022; the Authority holds an exemption certificate for its school buses that sell over 20% of available seats until the end of July and an exemption certificate until the end of 2021 for the remainder. On average the income that is generated through bus fares is estimated at around £66,000 annually (based on the years from 2014/15 through to 2019/20). Enquiries made with some of the school bus operators on Anglesey indicate that it would cost between £5,000 and £7,000 annually per contract to meet the regulations; these cost would have to be passed on to the Authority for every contract quoted. Based on these figures, tendering the 54 current contracts on Anglesey would create additional annual cost of between £270,000 and £378,000. However, not charging a fee would mean that the current arrangements with bus operators can be extended until October 2022 when due to the length of existing contracts, it would be necessary to re-render in any event. As a payment would not change hands, the regulations would not apply.
The Portfolio Member highlighted that not charging a fee could mean that additional students may wish to use the provision. The report provides a summary of the number of seats on buses and the number of pupils who attend high schools on Anglesey. The Authority proposes to regulate the situation by ensuring that every eligible pupil obtains a bus pass which they would be required to show in order to travel. To this end the Authority is exploring options for introducing a pass system.
The Head of Service (Highways, Waste and Property) advised that the thinking initially across England and Wales was that closed school bus contracts would not fall within the scope of the PSVAR but during the summer of 2019 the Department of Transport confirmed that the regulations would apply to any service where payment is made to travel whether that be directly to the driver or through the Local Authority – the Authority has an exemption certificate until January, 2022. For pupils with special needs the Authority does currently provide transport by taxi from the pupil’s home to the yard of the educational establishment the pupil attends so their ability to access education should not be affected. The proposal will be effective for a year after which it will be reviewed; it is anticipated that the transport environment will by then have stabilised, prices will be more competitive and the market will be in better position to make the appropriate provision.
The Director of Education, Skills and Young People added that the options have been considered by a sub-group and the proposed arrangement was deemed the best option in the circumstances. The introduction of a bus pass system would have benefits in allowing the Authority to know exactly which pupils are using the service from a health and safety point of view.
Councillor Robin Williams, Portfolio Member for Finance confirmed that having weighed up the options from a financial perspective the proposal as presented is the most practical way of dealing with the impact of the regulations on home to school transport until October 2022.
It was resolved –
· That the Authority does not charge a travel fee on Anglesey’s non-statutory pupils and Further Education students for the 2021/22 academic year.
· That the Authority limits the right to the statutory distance for 2021/22.
· That the Council invest in an electronic system to manage which students qualify for travelling on a school bus as per section FF of the report; the Executive agrees to fund the cards in principle and for a plan to be then developed during the 2021/22 school year.