Nigel Evans MP has called on the government to drop plans forcing community transport drivers to obtain commercial licenses to the cost of £400m, saying that it would isolate elderly populations.
The MP for the Ribble Valley lent his support to a cross-party group of MPs opposing the government's plans to require non-for-profit services including rural pick-ups, door-to-door care, and those offering specific drops to doctor’s surgeries or the supermarket to obtain a commercial license to operate.
Under the existing Transport Act 1985, special provisions were set out for community transport, including the requirement of section 19 and 22 permits in an effort to limit the difficulty for those providing key services to those who rely on them the most.
“It is crystal clear that provisions for community transport should be kept, the vast majority of these facilities are not-for-profit and provide a totally different service to commercial operators - they are not competition," said Mr Evans. "It would spell disaster for the Ribble Valley if operators such as the ‘Little Green Bus’ were to be lost; many elderly people would lose their independence and [become] isolated in rural areas.”
The licensing exemptions are set to be scrapped as UK regulations strive to catch up to those of the European Union, which would require professional training for drivers, leading many MPs to believe this would represent the death of the community transport sector due to increasing costs and recruitment difficulties.
"I have provided a representation to the consultation process, which I hope will highlight to the Department for Transport the very real concerns of communities across the UK," Mr Evans added from Westminster. "The Community Transport Association has estimated that implementing the new licensing rules will cost £400 million when including purchase of insurance, tachographs and ironing out other intricacies.
"This is £400 million that the sector does not have, and should not be forced to part with.”
The Community Transport Association also estimates that 95% of permit-based operators will be affected, which totals 5,956 operators across the UK. The government has provided reassurance that it will be carefully considering all contributions to the consultation.