Council seeks views on community bus services

The council is asking for views on how its community bus services are provided in the future.

Inside a bus

The borough council provides two bus services:  

1.     For people who attend the Jimmy Macs Activity Centre (JMAC) at The Hive in Hatfield 

2.     The Shopper Hopper service for people to get to local supermarkets  

These are in addition to the county council's Dial-a-ride and other community transport schemes. For the borough council to continue providing these services directly, it would need to subsidise each user by around £20 for each return trip. It would also need to buy new buses costing either £160,000 each for diesel buses or £240,000 each for electric buses, and these would need to be replaced after 12 years. 

An alternative option has been found for people using JMAC that would see the county council deliver the service as part of their Dial-a-ride membership scheme. An annual grant from the borough council (£42k for the first year with this figure reviewed annually) would secure a guaranteed service allowing people to continue using a bus as they do now to attend the centre.

For the Shopper Hopper service, the proposal being consulted on is for the borough council to stop delivering the service directly, and point people to transport services already available for shopping trips. The main ones are the Dial-a-ride service and a local volunteer car scheme, both funded by the county council.

Cllr Fiona Thomson, the council's Executive Member for Housing, said:

The demand for the community bus services has reduced markedly post-COVID, and the buses are now nearing the end of their working lives. This has prompted a review of the service to explore the options going forward and, in addition to asking for everyone's views, we are writing to all 174 people registered as users of the two services affected.

At a time when tough decisions are being made by councils everywhere, it is hard to justify the level of subsidy these services need to operate.

We need to find a way of making sure people can still get about in a way that offers better value for money for the council, for council taxpayers, and for people using the services. We think some of the existing providers, such as the county council's Dial-a-ride or the volunteer car scheme, can do that.

This is all about finding savings that we can reinvest in other council services, including improving council tenant homesand providing support to community and voluntary organisations, that we are much better placed to deliver.

Residents of Welwyn Hatfield are being encouraged to find out more before having their say online.

No decision will be made until consultation responses are considered and a further report is brought back to Cabinet in October/November to recommend the way forward.